Written by: Sebastián Hinestrosa
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
When asked in the most prestigious rendezvous of my hometown about my favorite alive film directors I always proudly and enthusiastically give the following names: David Fincher, Nicolas Winding Refn, Bong Joon-ho, Erich Von Stroheim, Michael Bay and, of course, Pedro Almodóvar, always Almodóvar.
In this way, a film by Almodóvar is an important event for me. Seeing a new film by this refined Spanish director represents a sacred ritual in which the following enumerated conditions must be met unreservedly:
1) I must see the movie in a Film Theatre.
2) I must go to the cinema alone but buy three chairs - and have one empty on each side of me - so that no one interrupts the movie with even an inopportune whisper or with the light of their generic and cheap fruity cell phones.
3) I must smuggle into the room a small bottle of Champagne or Cava, a matured Foie Gras and a generous and fragrant slice of blood sausage that I start to enjoy as soon as I see on the screen: El Deseo producciones.
4) I must get out of the room knowing that I know more about Almodóvar than all the spectators who are leaving the theatre and judge them negatively for that and for other reasons as they walk out awkwardly in the absence of light.
This time the film is Julieta (2016) - his film number 20 - and I successfully completed my ritual. I left the cinema and I am ready to make this review with the vain hope that the editors will not modify a word or a paragraph of this text.
The film has two protagonists that give life to the same character: Julieta –Juliet-. There is then a young Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) and an older Julieta (Emma Suárez). The story begins with the "Shakespearean" protagonist in her older age planning to go to live to Portugal along with Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti) leaving behind Madrid. As soon as Julieta receives news of her daughter from an old acquaintance in the street, she decides to cancel her trip to Lusitanian lands and begins to write a letter for her daughter. There begins the plot of the film under an epistolary narrative structure. The letter is addressed to Antía, her daughter. Julieta, in her letter, tells how, when she was young, as a teacher, she conceived and became pregnant with her firstborn; fruit of this fact she is born: the renowned Antía. Young Julieta is a teacher of classical philology and her daughter, as it could not be otherwise, has a Greek name: Antía, which comes from the Greek "Anthos" meaning "flower" and, therefore, "Antía" literally means "flowered ". Maybe a subtext for the eventual development of the character. This is the beginning of the story - based on texts by Alice Munro - that will be developed.
Now, fortunately for those of us who hate innovation and rescue the tradition, considering that the acquisition of knowledge is achieved through an eternal and sublime recapitulation, in this film, the classic “almodovarians” features are showed off: exploration of female psychology in personal histories; vivid and intense colors on the screen reflected in art and costume: essentially the intense red is predominant in the film (this time not as a subtext of explosive characters, but the red always elegant and visually beautiful); string music with percussive intensities; refined Close-ups and, as a background, without a doubt, the story of a melodrama that is conceived from the twisted, sick and brilliant mind of Almodóvar. In that sense, Almodóvar remains Almodóvar. But there is certainly a change that makes this movie different. The change comes in the way he tells the story, both in the script and in the direction: we certainly see now a much slower film in a much calmer narrative. Julieta lacks the intensity that has characterized his filmography traditionally. Some, confidently, will call this narrative tranquility "maturity"; I do not dare to name it: it is ineffable. Almodóvar displays in this film less dramatic events or dramas and thence prevails a subtlety that had not been seen in him before, it changes his way of telling stories. Now he does suggest. In Julieta, things are suggested and are not made explicit. These suggestions are magically combined with a new, slower and calmer narrative stance.
One thing is certain: that the story is more relaxed than what the Manchego has habituated us, but to what extent is it so devoid of drama that the movie becomes disappointing and somniferous? I do not know. All I know is that in my mind bombarded a series of questions while I was watching Julieta (I do not know if for lack of concentration) in this modern and liberal Spain and I thought things such as:
- What would Franco think of Almodóvar?
- What would Franco think of Tom Brady?
- Where did I leave my Foie Gras?
- Did I already pay my Income Tax?
- What would Franco think of Colombia, its fermented drinks and women from Barranquilla?
The answers to those questions I do not know either, but certainly, at the time, I had smart, erotic and politically incorrect answers.
By way of conclusion, I say that it is a different film (indisputably different) from Almodóvar, but worth seeing: of course. Controversially I utter the judgment that in essence Almodóvar, in broad terms of directing (in writing I would say definitely no), remains the same, which is good, beautiful and virtuous.