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How the great Pedro Almodovar invented and embodied the "meeting" of Tilda Swinton with Penelope Cruz
How the great Pedro Almodovar invented and embodied the "meeting" of Tilda Swinton with Penelope Cruz
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This year, Oscar-winning provocateur, the most famous Spanish director Pedro Almodovar celebrates an anniversary: ​​40 years of tumultuous life in cinema. After problems with the producers of the first films, Pedro and his brother Agustin created their own company, El Deseo (Desire).

"The Law of Desire" has already been filmed on its own - and the film wins a prize in Berlin. Decisive for the director's career was the triumph of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), an Oscar nominated film for best foreign film. The statuette of Almodovar, coveted by every director, will have to wait until the release of the film "All About My Mother" (1999), but the success of "Women" has already introduced him into the history of world cinema. A noteworthy fact: actress and producer Jane Fonda even offered to buy from Almodovar for several million dollars the right to remake "Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown" in the United States (they say she dreamed of a leading role). However, the deal did not materialize.

Almodovar managed to maintain independence from Hollywood, which he sincerely admired the exotic Spaniard and repeatedly made various proposals to him. But Almodovar forever remembered the warning of his idol Billy Wilder:

All previous films Almodovar shot in Spanish and now: his first English-language picture "The Human Voice" with Tilda Swinton was recently released. This is Almodovar's 22nd film set in 2020, the numbers rhyme beautifully. Critics unanimously recognize the film as a masterpiece. Let's try to understand the secret codes, allusions and quotes with which Almodovar always fills his films.

Cocteau, Edith Piaf and phones of different models

The film is based on a play by the French classic Jean Cocteau written for Edith Piaf in 1928.

This is the monologue of a young woman who speaks on the phone with her lover who abandoned her. Almodovar first learned about this play by Cocteau when he watched Roberto Rossellini's 1948 film Love. One of the parts of the film was based on the play "The Human Voice", performed by the great Anna Magnani. And when Almodovar meets his first muse Carmen Maura, who was playing at that time in an amateur theater and dreamed of staging "The Human Voice", he turns to this play by Cocteau for the first time.

In The Law of Desire (1987), Carmen Maura plays the transgender Tina, who rehearses The Human Voice - speaks on a red phone, nervously squeezes the receiver, and then chops off furniture with an ax. It was after the success of The Law of Desire that Almodovar wrote specifically for Carmen Maura the script for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), a film that brought him an Oscar nomination and world fame. The beginning of "Women" is a quote from Cocteau, the heroine nervously listens to an answering machine (Cocteau did not have such a reality) and pulls out the wire of the same red telephone set that flies from the balcony onto the street.

In the new "Human Voice", Tilda Swinton is already talking on a mobile phone with Airpods, so from time to time it seems that this is a monologue addressed to a non-existent interlocutor. She plays all the registers of a possible conversation - does anyone hear her or is this monologue important only to herself?

How Tilda Swinton got ahead of Meryl Streep

The heroine Swinton is sorting through books and films on a coffee table in her elegant apartment. You can see: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Truman Capote, "Daughters of other men" by Richard Stern, "Tender is the night" by Scott Fitzgerald. The camera freezes on one of the covers - the English edition of Alice Munroe's Too Much Happiness.Almodovar wrote the script for Juliet (2016) based on three stories from the book "The Runaways" by this Nobel Prize-winning Canadian writer. The film was supposed to be shot in Canada in English and Meryl Streep agreed to play the main role. Any star dreams of the title "chica Almodovar" - "girl of Almodovar"!

However, at that time, Almodovar did not make his debut in English-language cinema. After the first expeditions to choose nature, the sun-loving Spaniard Almodovar decided that the Canadian landscapes were too gloomy, and the shooting was moved to Madrid and Galicia, filmed in Spanish and, of course, with Spanish actresses. So in the first English-language film Almodovar starred not Meryl Streep, but Tilda Swinton.

Tilda Swinton's meeting with Penelope Cruz

In Open Embrace (2009) there is a scene that Almodovar clearly remembered while filming The Voice. Despot-lover Ernesto Martel lowers Lena, played by Penelope Cruz, down the stairs, and then in a wheelchair with a broken leg brings her to the cinema pavilion. This is the path from the world of non-freedom (the heroine completely belongs to him, like a beautiful thing): they move among the scenery, and the actress says to Martel, pointing to the enclosure: "I live here." This is exactly how she began to live in these scenery, met true love - the director Mateo Blanco, and from the scenery she was released, albeit a tragically short one.

In The Voice, Tilda Swinton also wanders among the scenery (where “she lives”), and in the finale she makes a path that visually reverses Lena's path: she leaves the pavilion through the open door. The last shots of "The Human Voice", where she disappears into the sun's rays, are just as overexposed, as were the first shots of Penelope Cruz's "entry" into the pavilion. Both heroines of Almodovar were freed.

How can I find out more?

If you want to learn about the details of the creative method of the great director, in particular the exciting story of Pedro Almodovar and Andy Warhol's acquaintance, as well as how the world of Warhol was reflected in his cinema, take part in webinar "Warhol and Almodovar (from U to A and vice versa)", which will take place on December 17 at 19.00.

The webinar is conducted by art critic and Spanish philologist Tatiana Pigareva. A few days after the end of the webinar, all attendees will receive a recording of the lecture delivered online.

For readers of "Culturology" 30% discount with promo code PROMO30S.

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