Born on September 25, 1949, in Calzada de Calatrava, Spain, Pedro Almodóvar went on to become an internationally recognized filmmaker who's directed more than a dozen movies, some of which have been controversial. After the hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Almodóvar won Academy Awards for All About My Mother and Talk to Her. His more recent films include Volver, Broken Embraces and I'm So Excited.
Filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar was born on September 25, 1949, in Calzada de Calatrava, a hamlet of La Mancha, Spain. His father was an oil and wine trader who did a variety of additional jobs and his mother, whom he was closer to, earned money by writing letters for neighbors who couldn't read or write. Almodóvar attended a Catholic boarding school for a time and decided to move to Madrid by the end of the 1960s, going against his father's directive that he work at a bank.
Almodóvar had developed a love for movies and watched an assortment of international directors. He worked at phone company Telefonica while making short films with a Super-8 camera and honing his craft as a writer of short stories and satirical media. After the death of Spain's dictator, Francisco Franco, in 1975, the citizenry experienced newfound freedom which could be found in the movida madrileña movement, a countercultural wave in which Almodóvar is seen as an icon with his erotic, irreverent work.
First Films and Antonio Banderas
Having previously created a Super-8 feature-length work, Almodóvar's first commercial film was the madcap Pepi, Luci, Bom y Otras Chicas del Montón (1980), adapted from a story he wrote for a fanzine. It was followed by 1982's Labyrinth of Passion, which marked actor Antonio Banderas's film debut. Banderas went on to collaborate with Almodóvar in several more features over the next decade, including Laws of Desire (1987), Banderas's first lead role with the director.
Almodóvar continued his explorations of the flesh with What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984), Dark Habits (1984), Matador (1986) and the aforementioned Desire before his big international breakthrough, the comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). The madcap, apartment-based farce, focusing on the interconnected lives of a female cast and their lovers, was Spain's top grossing film for several years and was nominated for a foreign film Academy Award. The movie was later turned into a 2010 Broadway musical.
Controversy and Oscar Wins
Almodóvar provoked major outcries over his next feature Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, with its plot of an actress being held captive by and falling for a mentally unhinged man, and the MPAA also giving the film an X rating for its sex scenes. The director followed up with High Heels (1991) and Kika (1993), which was controversial as well over its treatment of women.
Yet 1995's Flower of My Secret showed the director in a more subdued and serious light (though humor still came through): The story focused on a pseudonymous romance writer who suffers over a dead marriage while finding a stronger sense of self.
Live Flesh was released in 1998 and featured Penelope Cruz in her first film with the director, while Almodóvar's next work, All About My Mother, featured Cruz again along with actress Cecilia Roth portraying a woman who has lost her son and seeks out his father, who is a transvestite. The acclaimed, riveting work saw Almodóvar win an Academy Award for best foreign language film, with an emotional Banderas and Cruz presenting the award to him at the live telecast.
Almodóvar received another Oscar, this time for screenwriting, with 2002's Talk to Her, which told the story of two women—a dancer and a bullfighter who both lie comatose in a hospital—and the two men who visit them. The filmmaker's next work, the noir-ish Bad Education (2004), starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, told the story of two boys who attended a Catholic boarding school together and their reunion as adults, though all isn't as it seems.
Cinematic Sensibilities and Penelope Cruz
Over time, Almodóvar has developed a reputation for penning scripts that are intricate and layered in their storytelling, with the main narrative often containing a fully-rendered micro-story. Additionally, his work presents historically underrepresented orientations and identities, including female sexuality, gayness and transgenderism, in a manner that's unconventional and defiant of taboo. He's looked at power dynamics between the sexes and been critiqued for the depictions of rape in his work, yet has also been noted for having a particular sensitivity to the interior and exterior lives of women.
This sensitivity was showcased in 2006's Volver, starring Cruz as a mother who simultaneously aims to protect her daughter and deal with her past. She received her first Oscar nomination for the role, and the two worked together again in 2009's Broken Embraces.
Almodóvar reunited with Banderas in the 2011 pseudo-medical thriller with a major twist, The Skin I Live In. And in 2013 the director released I'm So Excited, a return to comedy that features a cast of characters stuck on an airplane, with hijinks ensuing.
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