Preview: Pedro Almodovar Season, Curzon Mayfair/Renoir, London

Of murders, matadors and motherly love
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The Independent Culture

The Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodovar never went to film school. While working for a phone company he saved enough money to buy a Super-8 camera and began making short films with friends. His first feature, Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton (1980), was set during Madrid's punk era and dealt with the aftermath of the rape of Pepi, played by Carmen Maura. More than 20 years later, Aldomovar is still working with the actress, who stars with Penelope Cruz in his latest film, Volver (released on 25 August).

The programme for this mini-season of the director's work begins with What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984). Maura plays a Spanish housewife who is saddled with a drug-dealing son and a chauvinist taxi driver husband. "Like many Almodovar films, she portrays a strong, solid female character," says Rob Kenny of Curzon Cinemas.

Dark Habits (1983) is a comedy about Yolanda (Cristina Sanchez Pascual), a nightclub singer who runs away to a decidedly odd convent. All About My Mother (1999) concerns a single mother (Cecilia Roth) who, after her son dies, goes on a journey to find his father - who turns out to be a transvestite. "There are a lot of similarities between these two films," says Kenny, "nuns, drugs, dysfunctional people."

In Talk To Her (2002), a relationship develops between two men at a private clinic: Benigno, a nurse caring for a comatose ballet student, and Marco, a journalist, who is visiting his girlfriend, a famous matador who is also in a coma after being gored by a bull.

The dark comedy Matador (1985) is about a retired bullfighter and a lawyer who get their erotic kicks from the act of killing. "It's a bit of an odd story," says Kenny. "Antonio Banderas plays a young man driven insane by his over-religious upbringing - but originality and humour is the magic of an Almodovar film."

13 August to 3 September (Curzon Mayfair 0870 756 4621; Renoir Filmhouse 020-7837 8402; www.curzoncinemas.com)

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