Almodovar's risqué early works are resurrected

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Spain's Oscar-winning film-maker Pedro Almodovar is to resurrect his provocative early films celebrating the explosion of sexual freedom and excess in Madrid after the death of Franco in 1975.

These pioneering fragments, never before shown publicly, include comic adventures with such titles as Two whores/Love story that ends in a wedding (1974), Sex comes, sex goes (1977) and The Fall of Sodom (1979).

The experimental shorts provide a record of the earliest ideas of Spain's best loved contemporary film-maker, whose latest movie, Volver, is tipped for the forthcoming Oscars.

The short films were shot before the video age, on super 8 film by the young would-be director, using his friends as actors, while he held down an office job in Madrid's Telefonica company.

Almodovar is to undertake this operation of "cinematic archaeology" on the invitation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which wants to eventually bring them to a wider audience.

The provocative tales chart the underground, semi-clandestine origins of the 1980smovida Madrileña, a drug-fuelled, sex-obsessed celebration of everything young Spaniards had longed for during years of repressive dictatorship.

"I dived into the liberty that Madrid represented for me in those years, and weighed only 62kg without being anorexic," said the portly director before he collected the Prince of Asturias prize in Oviedo at the weekend. "We had no money, no resources. I was striving to become the director I never dreamed I'd be."

Almodovar showed his first films only to friends at parties, narrating them live to match the silent images, while his brother Augustin - today his producer - handled the record player that provided the score. It was decades before Hollywood succumbed to Almodovar's charms. His Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was nominated for an Oscar in 1989, but not until 1999 did he win an Oscar for All About My Mother - which was shot in Barcelona because by then, Almodovar complained at the time, "Madrid had died".

The films were not only provocative but politically risky. Franco had died but his dictatorship was far from dismantled. Homosexuality remained a crime until 1982, and police routinely beat up Madrileños trying to have a good time.

The British film-maker Richard Lester was a decisive influence, Almodovar said. Lester's A Hard Day's Night and Help! influenced his sense of pace. And the American movie underground ("even dirtier and coarser than ours") fuelled his subversiveness. The surrealism he attributes to Luis Bunuel: "He's my God."