by Rusa Malaguradze

I was just 13 when I fell in love with Almodovar after watching “Talk to her”. As long as I can remember, cinema was one of the most important aspects of my life, never merely a pastime. Since then, few directors have resonated with me as deeply as Pedro Almodovar. I hope to pay at least part of my tribute for the profound influence it left on me, on Spanish culture and the cinematic world overall. His unique aesthetic and storytelling style leave an unforgettable impression, like you’re watching the movie and you don’t want it to end, ever. You’re part of it, feeling all the emotions of the characters, you’re wearing that bright red dress, you’re watching the balcony where Victor Plaza is fighting the prostitute in “Live Flesh”, you feel the empathy for the transgenders in the 1980s. Even in his most acclaimed movie “All About My Mother” a heart-rending story about a single mother, Manuela who is figuring out how to go on with her life once her teenage son, Esteban, the light and center of her life, is hit by a car and killed, Almodovar still uses vibrant colors to indicate the continuity of life, romanticizing it in every possible situation. It’s about life imitating art and the blurry lines between them. Watching his movies, it becomes more and more clear that he was raised by his mother, his sister and the female community. “He describes the Spanish father as repressive and oppressive, clearly empathizing with feminine emotions and hardships.” Like so many gay men he is somehow closer to women’s sensitivities, he understands them, he is closer to them.  “Volver”, whose story is very distinctive for Almodovar as it deals with women abandoned or betrayed by men or society (because usually the main characters are transgender women dealing with horrors of LGBTQ oppression).now we see the warmth and the grace with which the women support each other in battling the secrets and the traumas from the past. But the movie is not really about the murder or the supernatural events, but about the feelings in which the pain and the pleasure coexist, in which the ordinary is extraordinary and impossible is possible. Everything is so extravagant, so extraordinary in his movies, what makes them so unforgettable? For example, “Women on the verge of a Nervous Breakdown” – one of his first successful movies-  The plot revolves around three women as they reach their breaking points. Romance is not really the central theme but rather the tragedy and the struggles that come after ending the romance. Hysteria is emphasized but all these women are given such complex personalities, each with layers and the character development. One of my favorites “Tie me up! Tie me down!”, also the most controversial movie of Almodovar (who thought of the plot while directing his previous movie), criticized because of the kidnapping, abusive and violent themes and scenes, “objectifying women” – could that be possible from Almodovar? No! It was a trap well made for Hollywood critics who cannot handle realistic conversations and human nature in movies – always looking for a filter and censorship. Ricky, the main character is obviously mentally disabled – is that why this movie received more moral criticism than others? Of course, he doesn’t see the world in a healthy way, he expects love from someone he kidnapped but also emphasizes the importance of love rather than physical pleasure. They do have sex later but the scene emphasizes on the emotions and the feelings that the two characters have for each other rather than their physical bodies and sexual scenarios. All films by Pedro Almodovar are united by the same central issue: the question of identity.  He breaks cliches about transsexuals. Immediately after Franco’s oppressive regime, Almodovar started to bring transgender characters in the center of the cinematography during a time when there was less acceptance for LGBTQ people, especially in the media, taking full advantage of the newfound freedom. In “Law of Desire” Quintero’s sister Tina is transsexual and one of the film’s main characters, a fearless and vivacious figure. In his most critically acclaimed movie “Todo sobre mi madre”, Manuela decides to track down the father of her son, now a transgender woman dying from AIDS, or the more extraordinary revenge story of sexual transition in “The skin I live in” where a plastic surgeon pays back for raping his daughter. Each of his films are proof of Almodovar’s rebellious spirit, who released EMPOWERED LGBTQ characters to the conservative audiences of the time. He was a great influence in shifting a reality and morality in Spain and prompting for more accepting policies towards the minority. For him, nothing is too sacred.. Even after having watched all of his movies, “parallel mothers” still had an unexpected plot twist. Sacred nature of motherhood – who would have thought of the sexual tension between the two women bonding over the struggles of being a mom? No taboo is ever left unturned with him.. As we step out of the theater the vivid colors of his movies are still playing in our heads, our spirits lifted and hearts full. We all should embrace the legacy of Pedro Almodovar to which I’ll be forever grateful. But his legacy is not just in his movies but his influence to illuminate human nature in a very unique way – with beauty, complexity and authenticity.

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