Almodovar bites back with cannibal woman

Oscar-winning director returns to his roots with a ‘naughty’ short film
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The Independent Online

The Spanish critics did not gush when Pedro Almodóvar released his first sketches, filmed with a Super 8 camera and no sound. His zany, irreverent forays into film-making in the 1970s and early 80s received lukewarm reviews. The writers poked fun at his bathroom humour and high-lighted his technical gaffes.

But now, with several Oscars under his belt, the director of Volver and Talk To Her has returned to his roots with a naughty short – his first in 30 years – and Spain is enthralled. One critic called it, “a daring and intelligent act of hooliganism”.

The provocative title of this trip down memory lane is La Consejala Antropofaga (The Cannabilistic Councilwoman), which premiered on a Spanish pay-TV channel, Canal +. It was born as a spin-off from his upcoming film, Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces), a four-way love story shot in film-noir style starring his Oscar-winning muse, Penelope Cruz as both a blonde and a brunette. The auteur from La Mancha said he was so impressed by the “extraordinary talent” of an actress who played a minor character in the film that he wrote the cannibal script for her “on a creative whim”.

That actress is the plump, middle-aged Carmen Machi, best known in Spain for her role in the sitcom Aida, where she plays a plucky cleaning woman who struggles to provide for her family. Machi is also a leading lady of Spanish theatre.

“I’m sick of everything, of men, of diets, of liposuction, of politics, of everything except sex,” Machi’s cannibalistic character tells a comatose dining companion, slumped face-down at a kitchen table. “I am the councillor of social affairs and on both a personal and professional level, I believe that sex is a profoundly social affair.” Machi’s kitchen-table monologue goes on to describe her desire to gobble up a man whole, starting with his big toe.

Spanish television stations and newspapers are praising Almodovar’s brief, man-eating offering. “The short will be talked about because it is brilliant and impeccable in performance and production,” said El País. “And to top it off, it is hilarious. Here is the best of the young and fresh Almodovar of his beginnings, but polished with the wisdom accumulated from so many years of film-making.”

The critics compare La Consejala Antropofaga to Almodovar’s once maligned film from 1980 Pepi, Luci, Bom, a romp through the club scene of post-Franco Madrid.

“Almodovar, armed with youth, returns to his cinematic origins with a naughty, unblushing short that we watch with the same shock as we did 30 years ago,” said El País.