Pedro Almodóvar is one of the directors who have played the most with film narrative, aesthetics, genres and conventions. His experimentations with cinema both enthral and intrigue. And that’s why I ask myself: do we really want to relinquish the myths behind his film-making? I have always had a love-hate relationship with books about films, especially autobiographies or one-on-one interviews with directors. I don’t want to have everything explained to me, because I feel the truth dispels the mystery and fascination of cinema to some extent. I like to watch a movie I love again and again. The experience is always different, you discover new things, new meanings, new depths.
“This is my life to date: do what you want to do,
have faith in yourself, be patient, don’t sell out, and you’ll get the best.”
In Almodóvar on Almodóvar , the director discusses his films (from his debut picture, to Bad Education), with Frederic Strauss, offering also innumerable views and insights into his life. The conversations are frank, passionate, enriching, showing Almodóvar’s boundless enthusiasm for the art of cinema and his distinctive sense of humour, and Strauss’s knowledge and passion for the director’s films. One can say that Almodóvar on Almodóvar tells the story to of the man and his films. But what I want to take away from this great book about film is not explanatory notes on the films stories themselves, but the creative process Pedro Almodóvar so generously makes the reader part of. That is truly extraordinary and the fact that he walks you through his cinematic journey, through his way of writing, through the unique way he approaches the work of other filmmakers in inspiring his own, through the way he incorporates his own life and the Spanish culture, religion and society in his movies, through all the steps towards distilling his distinctive, entirely his own film-making style. I wish they will cover the rest of his filmography in a similar book, especially that two of his later films, Volver and The Skin I Live In, are my favourites.
Before leaving you with some of my favourite quotes from the book, I would like to acknowledge one of them in particular, referring to Almodóvar’s view on cinema. “By ‘improving on reality’ I don’t mean making it better, but making it resemble as much as possible to what I want to see and film.” François Truffaut shared the same opinion: “To make a film is to improve life.”
“No doubt because I never had an academic education,
because I never went to film school, I’ve always remained
undisciplined and free. I don’t mean I’m more original;
I’m simply less orthodox.”
“Cinema is always present in my films, but I’m not the kind of cinephile director who quotes other directors. Certain films play an active part in my scripts. When I insert an extract from a film, it isn’t an homage but outright theft. It’s part of the story I’m telling, and becomes an active presence rather than an homage, which is always something passive. I absorb the films I’ve seen into my own experience, which immediately becomes the experience of my characters.”
“Cinema doesn’t have the same power of imagination
as literature even if people tend to believe the exact opposite.
When I hear it said that cinema is the language of dreams,
I completely disagree: in cinema you have to show things, their logic.”
“Only the studios and large corporations respect genres. A film-maker who wants to make personal films cannot respect all the rules of a genre. As time passes, we inevitably see stories in a different way. Nowadays it’s no longer important to say who is bad and who is good, but rather to explain why the baddie is the way he is. Genres force you to view characters in an elementary manner. I don’t think that’s possible anymore. It corresponds to the mentality of another age.”
My great secret, if I have one – the key to my work –
is that, whatever the situation, however crazy or eccentric
it may be, cinema is always objective. The image is made of real,
concrete elements and must therefore be sustained by
naturalistic performances. This is what makes a scene
both credible and convincing.”
“Seeing a good film or reading a good book is like a love affair.
It’s what gives my life delight, hope.”