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Pedro Almodóvar: 1951—: Filmmaker

Broke Taboos With Early Films

In 1980 Almodovar released his first feature film, Pepi, Luci, Bom, and Other Girls on the Heap. Shot on weekends and vacations, it took over a year and a half to make. Its screening at the San Sebastian Film Festival, Spain's answer to Cannes and Sundance, elicited shock and disgust from mainstream audiences. With wild antics and oversexed characters, Almodóvar's first film foreshadowed his work to come. In 1982's Labyrinth of Passion, a sex-crazed bisexual pop star who hates the sun, the gay son of an emperor, and a young victim of incest and rape, seek pleasure and freedom in Madrid. 1983's Dark Habits is set in a convent of lesbian, drug-using nuns. This film brought Almodovar international exposure when it was screened at film festivals in Venice and Miami. Back home, his films got his mother exposure too. According to www.express.co.uk, "the neighbours complained to her every time Pedro made a film, which was seen as controversial amongst the Calatrava neigh-bours." His mother didn't get involved in the controversy, quite simply, by refusing to see any of his films. Still, she remained supportive of her son and even appeared in four of his movies.

In 1984 Almodóvar struck box-office fame in Spain when What Have I Done to Deserve This? became one of the top grossing films of the year. Again quirky characters and plots abound including a glue-sniffing housewife who murders her husband with a ham bone. Just for fun there is a subplot involving a scheme to forge Hitler's diaries and a promiscuous son who has affairs with his classmate's fathers. Two years later he repeated this success with Matador. Its campy mix of sex, murder, bullfighting, and religious repression garnered Almodovar cult status in international film circles. The film also found art house success in the United States.

In 1987, along with his brother Agustín, Almodóvar started his own film company, El Deseo. The following year, with the release of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, he earned his greatest success to date. The film brought Almodóvar's distinctive style to the masses. Drenched in primary colors, it centers on a strong ensemble of female actors led by Almodóvar's then muse, Carmen Maura. She plays a pregnant Madrid soap opera actress whose married lover dumps her by answering machine. Through her ensuing loneliness, she manages to befriend her lover's ex-wife, the son she didn't know her lover had, and his fiancée. Along the way, they are joined by two police officers and everyone partakes of a drug-laced gazpacho.

Wacky, irreverent, and a bit absurd, Women on the Verge nonetheless manages to touch on themes close to the hearts of women everywhere—love, loss, loneliness. It helped establish Almodóvar as a women's director. A 1999 article in Time he was described as, "the man who loves women, who understands them, who writes women's roles that any actress would die or kill for." Almodóvar explained, " … I do prefer to work with women. Maybe that's because when I was young, I was surrounded by strong women, real fighters. This was in La Mancha, a very machista and conservative region. There, the man is a king sitting on his throne. And the women are like the prime minister; they are the ones who govern the house, resolve the problems." Spanish women are thankful to Almodóvar for bringing this out in his films. Penelope Cruz, one of Almodóvar's regular actors, told Time International, "When Pedro shoots, everybody wants to see … especially these 40-and 50-year-old women—they cried when they saw him. They'd come up to him in tears and tell him how much he's changed their lives." Women on the Verge changed his life too. The film received over 50 awards internationally including the Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. In Hollywood, where the bottom line is always the dollar, Almodóvar also proved his merit as a moneymaker. The movie earned $2.5 million dollars in the first ten weeks of its U.S. release becoming North America's most financially successful foreign language film.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: (Hugo) Alvar (Henrik) Aalto (1898–1976) Biography to Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) BiographyPedro Almodóvar: 1951—: Filmmaker Biography - Escaped Abuse Through Films, Broke Taboos With Early Films, Showed No Stop To His Creativity