SHELF LIFE

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The Independent Culture
2 Transsexuals, drug fiends, rapists, lesbian nuns, murderers, prostitutes, violent cops, terrorists, voyeurs and porn stars ... this is the cast list of the average film by Pedro Almodovar. Anyone tempted to write him off as a blunt talent merely out to shock should try Almodovar on Almodovar (Faber pounds 15.99). Editor Frederic Strauss takes the man from La Mancha very seriously indeed, describing his talent both as a writer and a director as "creativity fuelled by a formal power which thwarts all formal analysis".

This is a series of film-by-film interviews, starting with the early Pepi, Luci, Bom ("When a film has only one or two flaws it's merely imperfect; when the flaws are as numerous as they are in Pepi, Luci, Bom they constitute a style") and moving through to his latest, and deepest yet, The Flower of My Secret. It is fascinating to hear him discuss the limitations of some of his stars: he confesses that he got the money for Dark Habits on the understanding that he gave a part to the producer's thin, blonde, shrewish girlfriend. Of pop singer Fanny McNamara, who appears in Labyrinth of Passion, he says: "McNamara has a strong, very undisciplined personality and limited, or at best highly personal faculties of comprehension ... he was constantly on drugs ... I therefore directed him as I would have an animal: very clearly, authoritatively, directly and violently."

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