This Europe: Almodovar fumes at drugs-in-films study

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The Independent Online

Spain's Oscar-winning film maker Pedro Almodovar has lashed out at a Barcelona university for publishing a study that analyses the frequency of drug use in his films.

Drugs are consumed or mentioned in 14 per cent of the footage of Almodovar's films, the study by the psychology faculty of Ramon Llull University suggests. They watched 13 Almodovar films from his 1980 debut Pepi Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton (Pepi Luci, Bom and Other Ordinary Girls) to his 1999 Oscar-winner Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother), and logged three hours, five minutes and 39 seconds of screen time devoted to addictive substances.

The experts counted 170 characters who were related directly or indirectly to legal and illegal drugs, most of them women. Many were doctors, policemen or clerics, noted the study, which appears in the latest copy of Adicciones (Addictions), the journal of the Spanish Scientific Society of Studies on Alcohol, Alcoholism and other Drug Dependencies.

Almodovar said he felt "a kafkaesque sensation of fear, disgust, astonishment, fury and indignation" on learning of the study, and launched an angry counter-attack. "Suppose we analysed the work of Scorsese and found 60 per cent of his characters were gangsters and delinquents, owned weapons and used them often. We'd have to conclude that Scorsese was a member of organised crime."

Almodovar wondered, in an article in El Mundo newspaper, if the scholars were confusing fiction with reality, arguing that condemning drug use in films was the first step to forbidding such activities to be shown. He added: "The author doesn't judge his characters, but understands them, however monstrous they may be, and shows their humanity and explain their complexity; and must do so in complete liberty. It depresses me to have to defend my work in 2003 against this damned study."