High Heels (1991)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Victoria Abril, Marisa Paredes, Miguel Bose, Ana Lisaran, Mayrata O’Vichedo
“High Heels” was released in 1991, and even then they were inevitably compared with previous films by Pedro Almodovar – the director managed to shake his obscene amusing movie not only Spain, but also America. One of the consequences of this shakeup was that Antonio Banderas rushed to Hollywood to shoot “The Kings of Mambo”, leaving his mentor to deal with “Heels …” alone (they won’t work together anymore).
Listing Almodovar’s achievements – “Matador”, “Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown”, “Why am I all this?”, Sensitive reviewers noted with sadistic satisfaction that the new picture of the prolific Spaniard lacked the rebellious spirit, the postmodern swagger of “movida” and the declared earlier on every corner of anti-bourgeois nonchalance. Where are the ridiculed social taboos, where is the sex? Little camp! – critics complained. And, in general, it’s not that they were wrong. Soft and persistently melodramatic “High Heels” is the first picture in the filmography of Pedro Almodovar that can be shown without any difficulty even to your own grandmother, even to great-grandmother. Moreover, it will most likely be very interesting for them to follow the abundant intricacies of the plot: “High Heels” – a sortie to the territory of “soap operas” typical of Almodovar.
Lost mom actress (Marisa Paredes) returns to her daughter (Victoria Abril), carrying with her a suitcase of family secrets. It seems that one hundred and fifty Latin American episodes are compressed here in an hour and a half of screen time. And although Almodovar is not used to hiding skeletons in cabinets (usually they have on his balcony), secrets for the time being remain secrets. This is a detective. Murder. Although the investigation depends on some newspaper headings, a combination of circumstances and even passions boiling over the suspects: mother and daughter race confessed to murder, and the investigator himself hides no less than those whom he considers criminals.
On the other hand, “High Heels” is a love polygon with many aggravating circumstances: a corpse, a transvestite, an unplanned pregnancy, a child trauma, etc., etc., etc. That is, the alignment, as always with Almodovar, is macabre, but still there is no freak parade on the screen, as it was a couple of years ago. The director clearly explains: the period of frenzy is over, he is ready for an adult conversation with a wide audience.
The essence of the changes is most clearly clarified by the picture: “High Heels” is no longer a fragmentation grenade that has unfolded a gypsy camp. Take a look at how diligently the color scheme has been sustained here: blood red and death blue. The poise of the film even allows us to draw parallels with Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata” (also about meeting relatives), although it’s hard to find two more stylistically dissimilar directors than Bergman and Almodovar. But still. Growing up, establishing contact with elders, talking with mother and daughter – the topics covered in the “Heels” correspond in general to a serious tone.
Only sometimes does the familiar Almodovar erupt out to everyone, who came to the premieres of his own films in a truck full of actresses dressed to the nines. However, the subtlety is that these moments are not only not numerous, they also deliberately shifted emphasis. The travesty singer, in the end, turns out to be an investigator, and an incendiary street dance happens in the prison yard – Almodovar, you can say, gives a signal about his own lack of freedom, about an accomplished act of self-restraint. And we should probably appreciate these efforts, especially since in the next “High Heels” “Kike” the director will again go to great lengths. “How she holds on,” seems to be how viewers praise the main character of High Heels, Rebecca, who reads TV news with a stone face. Well, join, applaud.