PEDRO ALMODOVAR strutted into the Picturehouse Hackney two weeks ago to meet the audience, and a smattering of us gathered at the Regal to watch via live satellite link.
This giant of world cinema is in his early sixties and sports a shock of thick grey hair and a taste for outlandish yellow bomber jackets. He was also wearing designer shades, even as he clambered on to the dimly-lit stage to address his fans. Only a true superstar could get away with this — the rest of us would stumble and trip, looking more like Mr Magoo than Mr Cool.
When asked about his latest film, I’m So Excited!, he said it was full of “fun, fizz and filth”.
“We are living in a catastrophic period in Spain so I wanted to make a comic movie to turn the catastrophe into a party,” he said.
There are so many superlatives written about this Spanish director — that he’s the modern-day equivalent of Luis Buñuel, for example — that to say his work is anything less than brilliant seems like blasphemy. Nevertheless, though this film is indeed full of all three fs, whether it will ever deserve a place in posterity on the stellar list of movies he has made is dubious.
I’m So Excited! is the story of a handful of kooky characters trapped in the business section of an Airbus flying from Toledo to Mexico when disaster strikes. The plane develops technical problems, and faced with probable extinction, the characters turn first to booze and drugs, then to each other for wild unfettered sex.
It’s difficult to say too much more about the plot without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that the characters are suitably complicated in true Almódovar fashion.
The man who brought us Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown in 1988 and The Skin I Live In in 2011 likes to dig deep into the dark side of human nature, exposing our deepest fears and desires as well as holding them up to ridicule. This is certainly true of his latest film, but it is billed as the long-awaited return to pure comedy for Almodóvar, and actually, it’s really only midly amusing.
The three stewards looking after the posse of corrupt individuals flying business class are all gay, and at least one of them is having an affair with the captain, who is married. As tension mounts and yet more booze and drugs are consumed, the internecine fights between the staff become ever more bitchy. A seething nest of vipers has nothing on this lot. And we haven’t even touched on the passengers yet.
There are some laughs in this film — the scene where all three gay stewards launch into a cabaret act of the Pointer Sisters number that gives the film its English name to distract the passengers from their doom is amusing in its ridiculousness. But generally the comedy moments trip over into farce, and in lampooning his characters Almodóvar succeeds only in turning them into cardboard cut-outs.
Before the film started the great man himself said: “Sex is always something to celebrate. It’s one of the only gifts our nature gave us.”
You can’t really argue with that, but there is just too much easy, throw-away and frivolous sex in this film. In previous movies he has explored sexuality in all its strangeness; the way it fascinates and corrupts. But if he wanted this to be a celebration of sex, I’m afraid in my opinion he has failed.
There are some brilliant, though fleeting, Almodóvar-esque moments in this film, but sadly they are few and far between.