26 September 2016

PEDRO ALMODOVAR'S 'WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.' (1988) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN AND OTHER FILMS BY PEDRO ALMODOVAR. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (1988) OR MUJERES AL BORDE DE UN ATAQUE DE ''NERVIOS.'' WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY PEDRO ALMODOVAR. MUSIC BY BERNARDO BONEZZI. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY JOSĖ LUIS ALCAINE.
STARRING CARMEN MAURA, FERNANDO GUILLĖN, MARÍA BARRANCO, ANTONIO BANDERAS, JULIETA SERRANO, KITI MANVER AND ROSSY DE PALMA.

WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN was the breakthrough film of director, producer and former actor Pedro Almodovar (born 1949), netting him as it did an Academy Award nomination for BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM in 1988.

I'd always been curious about the Spanish film with the intriguing name. I was therefore as happy as Larry to be asked to review it, along with other films by the multi-award-winning director who, back in 1988 when the film was made, had a head of hair as luxuriant and black as Antonio Banderas's own barnet. Banderas, of course, is one of the key players in this black comedy-drama. Or 'dramedy,' as I believe people sometimes say today. Not me though, I think 'dramedy' sounds terrible.

The central story is an old, old one, probably as old as time itself. A woman has been abruptly deserted by her older married lover Ivan, the fuppin' baxterd. The woman is Pepa Marcos, an attractive television actress in her forties who does voice-overs. She has a sense of humour and seems like she could be a good, nice fun person to be around, when she's not tearing her hair out about some loser, that is.

She lives in a gorgeous apartment and seems to be doing well financially. She has so much genuinely going for her that it's sad to see her all depressed and popping sleeping pills over her louse of a boyfriend. Still, that's women for you. Doesn't matter how fabulous they are, a guy has the power to make them feel about two inches tall every time.

The silver-haired Ivan in particular is an absolute past master at filling women full of the most outrageous lovey-dovey bullshit, none of which is sincere. Well, he might mean it at the time he says it but I wouldn't count on it.

There's an actual scene at the beginning where we see him doing this exact thing with a parade of beautiful women from across the globe. It's funny to watch but probably not so funny when you're the woman he's supposed to be being faithful to, if you get me.

Anyway, poor Pepa is not in a good place when Ivan decides to do his moonlight flit. He even calls her up on the telephone (it's 1988, remember!) asking her to pack a bag for him for a flight he's taking. What an absolute bloody cheek! I know what I'd do with his flippin' bag.

Pepa has something she needs urgently to impart to Ivan but, as is the way with these married sleazebags, he's totally incommunicado, the cowardly shit, desperate to avoid any unpleasant fallout arising from the consequences of his actions. Sheesh. No wonder artistes like the wonderful Alanis Morrisette pen bitter break-up songs like 'You Oughta Know...!'

Added to Pepa's frantic attempts to find her slimebag lover is a highly colourful cast of characters who contribute chaos and the blackest of black humour to an already fraught situation.

A slightly nerdy-looking Antonio Banderas (still handsome, though!) as Carlos complicates things no end by turning out to be Ivan's son with his mentally unstable wife Lucia for whom, judging by her dress, the 'Sixties are still very much alive and kicking.

Carlos comes to view Pepa's apartment (she's getting rid of it because of all the painful memories associated with sharing it with Ivan) with his snobby fiancée Marisa. Marisa is an extraordinary-looking woman, not beautiful but certainly striking.

Anyway, Carlos may appear shy and unassuming but he's his philandering father's son at the end of the day. This would explain why he makes a play for Pepa's best friend Candela, as typical a love-hungry female in desperate search of a man as you're likely to see this side of SEX AND THE CITY. 

Candela, a gawky-looking chick with short hair and big feet who's attractive in a quirky, kooky way, has gotten herself into one dilly of a pickle, as Ned Flanders from THE SIMPSONS might say.

She's gotten herself inadvertently mixed up with a group of Shi-ite terrorists who plan to blow up a flight to Stockholm which, surprise surprise, Ivan is going to be taking with his new girlfriend. Yeah, that's right. He's got a murderous wife with mental problems and a distraught girlfriend with a secret and he still goes out to get himself another piece of ass to further complicate his romantic life. Incredible...!

Anyway, Candela, who is now as drawn to Antonio Banderas's Carlos as he is to her, fell in love with this guy she didn't know was a terrorist after a weekend of the most marvellous 'f***ing,' as she puts it herself when she's confiding in a bemused Pepa. Now her boyfriend's police mugshot is plastered all over the television and she's afraid the cops are gonna 'do' her for complicity. She has every reason to be worried...

Add to this crazy mix a broken telephone, several smashed windows, a burned-out bed, a mambo-loving taxicab driver, a hijacked motorbike and a big old jug of gazpacho spiked with sleeping pills and you've got yourself a superb madcap Spanish-language comedy with some really big issues at its core.

I like the addition of the whole 'terrorism' thing, which raises the question that you never truly know who you're committing to unless you take the time to get to know someone first.

And we all know the answer to the question of whether Pepa should kick Ivan's designer-suit-clad arse to the kerb and strike out on her own, or if she should continue to put her own life on hold while waiting around for Ivan to possibly come back to her. Yeah, we know the answer because it's easy to see what someone else should do in this situation. Taking our own good advice is much, much harder, unfortunately...!

The news I am about to impart (cue fanfare!) is very good indeed for fans of Pedro Almodovar's, whose trophy cabinet to date contains one Oscar, four BAFTAs, six European Film Awards and two Golden Globes. You can now purchase, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL, an amazing boxset that contains not only WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, which as I said was his internationally-acclaimed breakthrough film, but five other brilliant movies as well, namely:

DARK HABITS- 1983.
WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?- 1984.
LAW OF DESIRE- 1987.
KIKA- 1993.
THE FLOWER OF MY SECRET- 1995.

There's a whole host of brilliant extra features (including cast and crew interviews) up for grabs as well, naturally. Also, just to say that BFI SOUTHBANK are hosting a two-month Pedro Almodovar season from August 1st to October 5th, just in case anyone lives in the area and can book tickets for onstage appearances by not just the great director himself but also actress Rossy de Palma, Jean-Paul Gaultier the iconic fashion designer and a few surprise guests as well. It sounds smashing. Wish I could be there.

(PS, remember Jean Paul Gaultier's stint in the amazeballs TV programme EUROTRASH with the fast-talking Antoine de Caunes? I used to live for that show, until I discovered how to access my OWN Internet porn, that is, heh-heh-heh...!) 

I'm off now to have my own little version of a nervous breakdown. Sadly, as there are no hotshot directors around to document it in a loving and humorous fashion for the international film festivals and suchlike, I'll have to keep you guys posted via social media, haha. As they say, watch this space... Well, not this space as such, as this is where I post my reviews but, say, my Facebook page and stuff. Keep an eye on those emoticons. You'll know how I'm feeling...!

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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