Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10


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Monday, October 02, 2006

Matador (Pedro Almodovar, 1986)




Being a big fan of Almodovar, I was more than thrilled to learn about the Sony Classics 'Viva Pedro!' series, which, along with rereleasing more recent Almodovar such as Talk to Her and Bad Education, was finally rereleasing a few obscure, unavailable on DVD films, like Law of Desire and this one. While I have some issues with the films chosen (why those new ones and not way harder to find others like Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! or Labyrinth of Passion?! But I digress), I appreciate the great opportunity to see a movie like Matador, which both fits right into the Almodovar canon and stands bravely outside of it at the same time.

Matador is the story of Angel, an aspiring bullfighter driven crazy by his highly religious mother, Maria, his lawyer (Angel admits to murders he may or may not have committed), and Diego, a former bullfighter and Angel's instructor. All three people have serious obsessions with sexuality and violence, and most of the problems in the movie stem from the inability to distinguish between the two. Violence is sexy, and most sex is violent. There are some very disturbing images, from the first scene of a man masturbating to a slasher film (which reminded me very much of Patrick Bateman's obsession with Body Double), to a montage in Angel's mind of rape and murder. This is the least female-focused Almodovar picture I've seen, and also the most upsetting - coincidence? I don't think so. Although Maria has this obsession as well, Almodovar seems more to be speaking to male sexuality in the modern world. Although it's set in 1980s Spain, it could be present day America.

The performances are almost universally very strong - who knew Antonio Banderas could be so believeable (as Angel)? Carmen Maura, whom I have said before I really like, brightens up the second half as a psychologist. Nacho Martinez as Diego is effectively obsessive and creepy, and Eva Cobo as the immature model Diego dates is impressive as well. As always, Almodovar really gets the best out of his ensemble cast.

Matador is a movie where not only is the boundary between sex and violence blurred, but that between truth and fiction, as well. The middle of the movie drags a little, as the story is so dense that it's cumbersome to tell, but once the characters' motivations begin to reveal themselves behind the layers of lies many of them hold up, it is fascinating. Matador brings into question the very notions of truth and sanity themselves; do they truly exist, or are they things that are made up by some external force?

7/10

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