Classic Movie Review: Talk to Her (2002)

Title: Hable con ella
Release Date: 15 March 2002
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Production Company: El Deseo S.A.

Back in the 1990s, Pedro Almodóvar films were a really big deal, but I never liked them.  It felt to me that his films used shock value in attempt to appear edgy and groundbreaking.  Almodóvar is known for centering his movies around strong women characters but also for having those characters humiliated and abused, leading him to be considered both a feminist and a misogynist filmmaker.  One of the worst examples was Kika, a movie I actually saw at the theater, where the title character is raped in a long scene that is played for laughs.  As you can imagine, I went into watching this Almodóvar film with strong reservations.

The women in this film are a dancer named Alicia (Leonor Watling) and a bullfighter named Lydia (Rosario Flores).  They are both comatose for the better part of the film, only acting in flashbacks.  Alicia is cared for rather obsessively by a nurse at the hospital named Benigno (Javier Cámara).  Lydia’s boyfriend Marco (Darío Grandinetti) also spends time with her hoping against hope that she will be restored to health.  Over time Benigno and Marco form a friendship over their shared experience.

In flashbacks, we learn that Benigno was actually stalking Alicia before the car crash that put her in a coma.  During the course of the film, Benigno rapes and impregnates the comatose Alicia (thankfully this is not depicted in the film but hinted at through a bizarre “silent film”).  A leopard does not change its spots, whether it’s Benigno or Almodóvar himself.  I actually don’t mind so much that the story shows Marco agreeing to help his imprisoned friend despite the disgust he feels for the crime.  Even the worst criminals are still human beings.  I just wish that Almodóvar could extend that empathy and humanity to the women in this film.

Rating: **

Classic Movie Review: Senso (1954)

Title: Senso
Release Date:  30 December 1954
Director: Luchino Visconti
Production Company: Lux Film

Set during the Third Italian War of Independence around 1866, Senso is a sweeping Technicolor melodrama, romance, and war film.  The story centers on Contessa Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli) who enters into a tryst with Austrian Lieutenant Franz Mahler (American actor Farley Granger dubbed into Italian by Enrico Maria Salerno).  Initially Livia appears to be using her womanly guiles to support her revolutionary cousin Marchese Roberto Ussoni (Massimo Girotti), but she quickly gives into her passions and lusts (“senso” in Italian) and falls madly in love with Franz.

The “romance” of this movie is a hard sell for me since it’s clear from the beginning that Franz is a cad who is totally playing Livia for his own ends.  I hate to admit this, but the battle scenes near the end of the film were the most interesting part of the film for me.  Call me a philistine, but I found this movie to be pretentious dull.  If this is the type of film the Italian neorealists were reacting too, I can better understand the impetus of their movement.

Rating: **1/2