“Sex is one of the only gifts that nature gave you for free, so it is very important to celebrate it.”
TRQ: Pedro Almodóvar, Born September 25, 1949
Spain’s most successful film director, Pedro Almodóvar, known for his colorful representations of passion, sex and the absurdity of daily life, was born on September 25, 1949 in Calzada de Calatrava, Spain.
Despite his claims to be self-educated, Almodóvar studied at Salesian seminary in Caceres. He moved to Madrid after earning his degree in 1967, where he worked for the telephone company during the day. At night he performed in a punk band.
Almodóvar became a significant part of La Movida Madrileña, movement after the death of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. He started writing novels and screenplays, and exploring cinema and theatre. He wrote articles for El Pais, Diario 16, La Luna, Star, El Víbora and Vibraciones. He also published the novella Fuego en las entrañas (Fire in the Guts).
After he bought a Super-8 camera Almodóvar began making short films with sexual themes, which attracted late night audiences in Madrid and Barcelona. In 1978 he shot his first 16mm film, Complementos (Shorts).
Two years later he produced his first screenplay, Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980). Despite its depictions of rape and corruption, the comedy became a midnight movie cult favorite. It played in Madrid theatres for nearly three years.
Soon afterwards, Almodóvar cast Antonio Banderas in a series of films. The first was Labyrinth of Passion (1982), about an affair between a nymphomaniac pop star and a gay prince. Following, Matador (1986) presents murder as a sexual thrill, and La ley del deseo (1987)
With Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), Almodóvar also established his reputation as a “woman’s director.” It is a feminist comedy in which a woman reassesses her feelings for a married boyfriend after learning his secrets.
Banderas, Rossy de Palma, Chus Lampreave and many others from Almodóvar’s stable of actors star in the film. It won international acclaim, including five Spanish Goya Awards, two European Film Awards, and Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.
His next film, ¡Átame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) (1990), a dark romantic comedy about a psychiatric patient who kidnaps a porn star, is more controversial. In the U.S. the film initially received an X rating, usually reserved for porn, but was changed to a NC-17.
Almodóvar’s work with Penélope Cruz began with the film Carne trémula (Live Flesh) (1997), which was based on the novel by Ruth Rendell. This film earned Almodóvar his second BAFTA nomination.
Almodóvar worked again with Cruz in Todo sobre me madre (All About My Mother) (1999), which he dedicated to Bette Davis, Romy Schneider and Gena Rowlands. The title is a reference to All About Eve, and the film often refers to moments in Hollywood cinema. The film is the most celebrated in Spanish film history. Almodóvar won an Academy Award for best foreign-language film, best director at Cannes, a Golden Globe, two BAFTA awards and six Goyas.
Next, the critically-praised Hable con ella (Talk to Her) (2002) was awarded an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe and Almodóvar received a Oscar nomination for Best Director.
La mala educación (Bad Education),(2004) picks up where La ley del deseo leaves off, adopting film noire tones to further explore drug use and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Nominated for a BAFTA, seven European Film Awards, and four Goya awards, the film won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film.
For Volver (2006), Cruz was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress, a first for a Spanish actor. The film is Almodóvar’s highest grossing to date.
Almodóvar continued to make films well received by audiences and critics alike with the thriller La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In) (2011), the camp comedy Los amantes pasajeros (I’m So Excited!) (2013), and the drama Julieta (2016).
In 2019, Almodóvar released the semi-autobiographic Dolor y gloria (Pain & Glory) starring Banderas and Cruz once again. After winning Best Actor at Cannes, Banderas was nominated for his first Oscar. Time magazine named the film as best of the year, and it was nominated for an Oscar for Best International Film.
The director is now working on Madres paralelas and A Manual for Cleaning Women, an adaptation of Lucia Berlin’s short story collection.
In Almodóvar’s films, the absurd is everyday, and the queer is ordinary. Fearless, and openly gay, he presents characters who are liberated. Similar to James Bidgood and Pink Narcissus (1971) Almodóvar as director establishes a strong visual point of view, colorfully framing and accenting the narrative’s surreal melodrama and heightened emotional tones.