Spain (110 mi) 1986 d: Pedro Almodóvar
Well, they just don’t make movies like this any more, which playfully throws in all manner of highly stylized, melodramatic hysteria, opening with a hilarious montage comparing the flamboyance of a bullfighter in the ring to the wicked desires of a sexual predator, who similarly stalks his or her prey before delivering a passionate thrust to their intended victim. Wrapped in all manner of B-movie gore that includes murder, mutilation, suicide, blood splattering, and even snuff films, and that’s just what’s on TV, viewed by a former matador who masturbates while he watches, Diego (Nacho Martinez), who retired after being gored in the ring, so now has this incessant desire to watch mutilated flesh on TV while making love to girls who play dead. Antonio Banderas plays Angel, and the name says it all, a virginal would-be matador who is taking classes from Diego, learning the specialized art of how to kill the bull while living with his over-sanctified, over-domineering mother (Julieta Serrano), who may as well be a stand-in for Franco as the Pope, who sees nothing but evil lurking inside her son, driving Angel insane with Catholic guilt and plenty of doubts about his sexuality. In order to prove he’s a man, that he’s not gay, he stalks Diego’s girl friend, his beautiful neighbor Eva (Eva Cobo) and attempts to rape her on the street, apologizing afterwards and then fainting at the sight of even the slightest drop of blood. He goes to Church and confesses, then to the police department to turn himself in, where he confesses to a female desk clerk who responds, “Some girls get all the luck,” but when the Inspector (Eusebio Poncela) brings in Eva and her manic mother, the wildly eccentric Chus Lampreave, they defend Angel as a sweet kid with a horrible mother. When they won’t press charges, Angel confesses to a string of unsolved sex murders and becomes headline fodder for the evening news reports.
María (Assumpta Serna), a strikingly beautiful woman dressed in sumptuous high fashion, like a character out of a Fellini film, arrives unexpectedly as his lawyer. We caught a glimpse of her earlier, as she has this wild sexual desire to murder her partner with a hairpin to the back of the neck at the moment of orgasm, continuing to grind away even after they’re dead. The victims Angel confessed to killing may have been her own handiwork. Carmen Maura makes an appearance as Angel’s overly affectionate psychologist, who at one point gives him mouth to mouth after a fainting spell, while Almodóvar himself makes an appearance as the prima donna director of a bullfight-themed fashion show, barking out orders, scolding one young model, “I told you not to shoot up in the dressing rooms, use the bathroom.” But the real story is the meeting of María and Diego, both of whom have an erotic fascination with death at the moment of orgasm, so despite overheated passions, they hesitate getting too close too soon and instead stalk one another like animals in heat, or like a matador and a bull, in a dance of death waiting for the appropriate moment to strike. They follow each other into an empty movie theater showing King Vidor’s 1946 film DUEL IN THE SUN, otherwise known as Lust in the Dust, which features an out of control love/hate relationship between Jennifer Jones, playing a sultry half-breed and the man she destroys with lust and desire, Gregory Peck, showing the scene where they die in each other’s arms. Both know this typifies their own outcome, which only arouses their passions even more. Meanwhile, poor Eva is jilted by Diego, having found his incomparable desire, but when she returns to his home to get him back, dressed as a highly decked out woman in red, she overhears them sharing murder stories, which she immediately reports to the police. While all this is happening, the country is up in arms over an anticipated solar eclipse and how this produces strange animal behavior. Angel is having psychic visions, leading the police to several buried bodies before visualizing the exact path and dialogue of the escaping couple of death, who hightail it out of town before consummating their love on the floor in front of a blazing fire, accentuated by the erect nipples of the tantalizingly gorgeous Assumpta Serna in sexually explicit foreplay of the highly aroused lovers to the sensuous music of Mina singing “Espérame en el cielo” Matador - YouTube (3:17), reaching their climax at the exact moment of the eclipse, when the screen turns red.