TYING PEDRO DOWN

Byline: Julie L. Belcove

NEW YORK — Pedro Almoduvar does not think it odd that most of his film protagonists are women.
“Men also feel pain,” says the Spanish writer and director, “but our responses are more dull.
“What’s strange is that there are not more movies about women,” he continues. “Studios are making movies for very young audiences. In general, they rarely tell adult stories.”
He even laments the disappearance of the Sixties-era sex object, often portrayed by someone like Ursula Andress or Raquel Welch.
“In place of the starlet,” he says, “they put a child or another hero or evil character. There is a lack of actresses who may not be such good actresses but who are esthetically pleasing.”
True to form, his latest film, “The Flower of My Secret,” which opens Friday, is the story of a middle-aged woman who falls apart after her marriage does. His next project, though, a thriller he’s still writing but hopes to shoot this summer, will include prominent roles for men as well as women.
Almoduvar, who first came to international prominence in 1989 with his over-the-top black comedy “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” acknowledges that “The Flower of My Secret” is “more austere” than his past comedic work.
“I think people prefer to laugh with me more than cry with me, but crying is also a pleasure,” he says. “Either is communicating.”
Almoduvar claims he doesn’t consider the audience’s reaction at all while making a film.
“Once the film is finished, though, the audience is present in all my thoughts,” he says. “In the two months between finishing the print and releasing it, I’m very upset about the audience.”
He’s so concerned that he joins the crucial Saturday night audience after the film opens, listening for moviegoers shifting in their seats, for their breathing and for their laughter.
“It’s a traumatic experience sometimes,” he admits.
Pleased with the credit Hollywood has given him for discovering Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril, Almoduvar notes, “If I want to work with them now, I have to make an American movie because they’re so expensive — but they always say they’ll do a discount for me.”
Almoduvar insists he does not harbor the same Hollywood ambitions.
“I don’t refuse the possibility, but it’s not my dream,” he says. “My ambition is not to make big-budget movies for somebody. In Europe we don’t make big-budget movies, so we must go deeper. We don’t have special effects, so we must have good dialog.”
Tired from months of travel to promote “The Flower of My Secret,” the 44-year-old film maker with the Muppet-like hair and sad eyes is anxious to return to Madrid.
“I need to write,” he says. “I need to shoot. I need to live — or else I’ll have nothing to say.
“I’m starting to get bored with myself.”

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