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One minute he’s kitsch, the next outrageous. But now, with a

fabulous film about a female matador, PEDRO ALMODOVAR is displaying distinct signs of maturity. Words: Richard Mowe

he gap between the popttlar itnage of Pedro Almodovar

and the man himself has yawned into a chasm. 'l'he

obviotts starting point is a campy and flamboyant Iberian icon who brottght Spanish cinema ottt of the closet. (‘ettainly .»\lmodovar used to enjoy living up to the sexy. kinky plots of his early liltns sttch as 'lic me 1]), lie me Down that went off at wacky angles. reflecting the sttdden rush of freedom and hedonism in post-liranco Spain.

Today at 50. though. he’s a rather different proposition. sober-suited. bttshy grey-flecked hair neatly trimmed while an expansive waistline pops over his designer trousers. Altnotlov‘afs sitting in the Madrid production house of lil Deseo (‘desire' ). the production company he runs with his brother Agustin. surrounded by lilm posters for such titles as lxnr o/‘lh'sire. [xi/{v'rinI/I (if/trvs'iMI. Women on I/It‘ \i'rgt' ofu .\'crt'nu.v Bil'U/y't/Utt‘ll. .ilulmlur and 'lie me ('p. . .

Almodovar has been rather quiet for the last three years. since All About my .Wnl/It‘l‘ swept the globe. winning a best foreign film ()scar and a best director B.-\l'"l}\ among a plethora of awards. It wrought a seamless transition between comedy. melodrama and heart-wrenching emotion. now also evident in his latest and l-lth feature. ’Iér/k to Her. a mellow and moving essay on the theme of solitude and misttnderstanding viewed through the eyes of a female matador (played by Rosario l’lores).

When it opened in Madrid earlier in the year. a poster for the film covered three buildings in the heart of the city's (iran Via while more modestly-sized proclamations spread like a contagious rash on what seemed like every billboard in the conurbation. It soared to the top of the box office in its first weekend. exceeding all previous Almodovar records.

The man from La Mancha has progressed from punk personality to become a kind of national monument. at once revered and the object of insatiable curiosity. It wasn‘t always thus: in the beginning he was ignored at home bttt hailed abroad. especially among acadetnics and lilm students. He admits that in some ways his life has become more complicated. "l‘oday I cannot go outside without being recognised. so it’s difficult for me to lind inspiration from the outside vvorldf he says with a shrug. ‘lnstead. l have to find it within myself. liverything around me is becoming very artificial. therefore it is increasingly diflicttlt to find reality. I prefer to make films in which I don't feel obliged to push my own emotions to the fore because I have become a bit bored with my own melancholy and sadness.

‘I wanted. 'Iri/k About Her to seem transparent. above all itt terms of the characters and the structure of the script. which is almost hermetically sealed.’ he continues. ‘I ltave been trying to ptit a distance between myself and the kind of films that l

6 THE LIST 2;» 5, sad,

atn Usually associated with. The other day l was invited to a signing at a bookshop and they had pttt ottt chairs in the shape of hearts and flowers. presumably because they thought they were very '.-\lmodovarian'. In fact. they were horrible. and I had to ask them to take them away. Sure I Used to love kitschy things and still do. bttt you end tip by being saturated with it. I’ve moved on and 80s style should stay in the 8(ls.' Hear. hear.

.-\|modovar says the kitschy elements helped to define his early style and also the characters of his films. bttt he may even have used it as a smokesct‘een to obscure the real .-\lmodovar. 'I don’t know if] hid myself behind the kitsch. but it‘s trtte that I do hide myself behind tny characters. They are all parts of tne. even if none of them have exactly been a self—portrait. 'l‘oday I am less inclined to hide myself. liven although I have the habit of talking about myself a lot. I have learned to be more discreet. (‘ertainly' l‘m guarded in terms of my private life. btit when I write I have no such inhibitions.’

.r\lmodovar has all the candour and relaxed air of someone

who has exorcised his demons. ()riginally. when as a teenager he left the stifling atmosphere of the strictly Roman (‘atholic environment of la Mancha. the situation within his family was. as he say s. 'very unpleasant attd tense’. Iiscaping to Madrid. he tried a bit of everything: creating comic strips. performing in a drag show. singing in a rock band. and earning a daily crttst by working for the telephone company. ‘.'\s tittte goes by you recognise the value of your familyf he says. ':\nd little by little I‘ve become aware of ltow important my mother‘s been. She reminded me recently of w hen we were young and my family was going through a very difficult period. We moved to a new \ illagc. to the boorest street. and she invented a Profession for tne: letter— writing. ()ur neighbours were illiterate and I would write letters for them and my mother would read them the ones they received. and sometimes she used to invent things she knew

‘I don’t know if I hid myself behind the kitsch, but it’s true that I do hide myself behind my characters’