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Pedro Almodóvar (born 25 September 1949)

Pedro Almodóvar Caballero (born 25 September 1949) is a Spanish film director, screenwriter and producer.

Almodóvar is a successful and internationally known filmmaker. His films, marked by complex narratives, employ the codes of melodrama and use elements of pop culture, popular songs, irreverent humor, strong colors and glossy décor. Desire, passion, family and identity are among Almodóvar’s most prevalent themes. His films enjoy a worldwide following and he has become a major figure on the stage of world cinema.

He founded Spanish film production company El Deseo with his younger brother Agustín Almodóvar who has produced almost all of Pedro’s films. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and received an honorary doctoral degree in 2009 from Harvard University for his contribution to the arts.

Pedro Almodóvar Caballero was born in Calzada de Calatrava, Spain, a rural small town of Ciudad Real, a province of Castile-La Mancha in the administrative district of Almagro. La Mancha is the windswept region of flat lands made famous by Don Quixote. He was born as one of four children (two boys, two girls) in a large and impoverished family of peasant stock. His father, Antonio Almodóvar, who could barely read or write, worked most of his life hauling barrels of wine by mule. Almodóvar's mother, Francisca Caballero, turned her son into a part-time teacher of literacy in the village and also a letter reader and transcriber for the neighbors. When Pedro was eight years old, the family sent him to study at a religious boarding school in the city of Cáceres, Extremadura, in the west of the country, with the hope that he might someday become a priest. His family eventually joined him in Cáceres, where his father opened a gas station and his mother opened a bodega where she sold her own wine.

While Calzada did not have a cinema, the streets where he lived in Cáceres contained not only the school, but also a movie theater. "Cinema became my real education, much more than the one I received from the priest," he said later in an interview. Almodóvar was influenced by such directors as Luis Buñuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alfred Hitchcock, John Waters, Ingmar Bergman, Edgar Neville, Federico Fellini, George Cukor, Luis García Berlanga and neorealist Marco Ferreri.

Against his parents' wishes, Pedro Almodóvar moved to Madrid in 1967. His goal was to be a film director, but he lacked the economic means to do it and Franco had just closed the National School of Cinema so he had to be completely self-taught. To support himself, Almodóvar worked a number of odd jobs, including a stint selling used items in the famous Madrid flea market El Rastro. He eventually found full-time employment with Spain's national phone company, Telefónica, where he worked for twelve years as an administrative assistant. Since he worked only until three in the afternoon, he had the rest of the day to pursue his own interests.

In the early seventies, Almodóvar grew interested in experimental cinema and theatre. He collaborated with the vanguard theatrical group, Los Goliardos, where he played his first professional roles and met Carmen Maura. He was also writing comics and contributing articles and stories to a number of counterculture magazines, such as Star, Víbora and Vibraciones.

Madrid’s flourishing alternative cultural scene became the perfect scenario for Almodóvar's social talents. He was a crucial figure in La Movida Madrileña (Madrilenian Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the death of Franco. Alongside Fabio McNamara, Almodóvar sang in a glam rock parody duo. He published a novella, Fuego en las entrañas (Fire in the Guts). Writing under the pseudonym "Patty Diphusa", he penned various articles for major newspapers and magazines, such as El País, Diario 16 and La Luna. He kept writing stories that were eventually published in a compilation volume, El sueño de la razón (The Dream of Reason).

Almodóvar bought his first camera, a Super-8, with his first paycheck from Telefónica when he was 22 years old, and began to make hand-held short films. Around 1974, he made his first short film, and by the end of the 1970s they were shown in Madrid's night circuit and in Barcelona. These shorts had overtly sexual narratives and no soundtrack: Dos putas, o, Historia de amor que termina en boda (1974) (Two Whores, or, A Love Story that Ends in Marriage); La caída de Sodoma (1975) (The Fall of Sodom); Homenaje (1976) (Homage); La estrella (1977) (The Star) 1977 Sexo Va: Sexo viene (Sex Comes and Goes) (Super-8); Complementos (shorts) 1978; (16mm).

“I showed them in bars, at parties… I could not add a soundtrack because it was very difficult. The magnetic strip was very poor, very thin. I remember that I became very famous in Madrid because, as the films had no sound, I took a cassette with music while I personally did the voices of all the characters, songs and dialogues. After four years of working with shorts in Super-8 format, in 1978 Almodóvar made his first Super-8, full-length film: Folle, folle, fólleme, Tim (1978) (Fuck Me, Fuck Me, Fuck Me, Tim), a magazine style melodrama. In addition, he made his first 16 mm short, Salome. This was his first contact with the professional world of cinema. The film's stars, Carmen Maura and Felix Rotaeta, encouraged him to make his first feature film in 16 mm and helped him raise the money to finance what would be Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón.

Asked to explain the success of his films, he says that they are very entertaining. "It's important not to forget that films are made to entertain. That's the key." He was heavily influenced by old Hollywood movies in which everything happens around a female main character, and aims to continue in that tradition.

Almodóvar is openly gay, and he has incorporated elements of underground and gay culture into mainstream forms with wide crossover appeal, thus redefining perceptions of Spanish cinema and Spain. He acknowledges, however, that his films are also very personal--"My films are very Spanish, but on the other hand they are capriciously personal. You cannot measure Spain by my films."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Almod%C3%B3var

Further Readings:

The Pedro Almodovar Archives by Paul Duncan
Hardcover: 408 pages
Publisher: Taschen (January 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 3836502836
ISBN-13: 978-3836502832
Amazon: The Pedro Almodovar Archives

An in-depth exploration of Almodóvar’s complete œuvre

Un film de Almodóvar: whether appearing in his stylish opening credits or on the suggestive poster that invariably accompanies each of his films, this announcement triggers a range of expectations. Sexy and subversive, colorful and controversial, passionate and provocative, Pedro Almodóvar’s world is unlike any other director's. Thanks to his remarkably cohesive and consistent œuvre, the Manchegan maverick has become a reliable brand, his name a byword for the visual opulence, experimentation and eroticism of post-Franco Spanish cinema.

Almodóvar found fame with self-penned, gender-bending plots depicting the often comic misfortunes of junkies, nuns, housewives, whores, transvestites and transsexuals. Praised by critics, championed by fellow film-makers, adored by actors and adorned with international awards, he is the most successful Spanish film-maker since Luis Buñuel, with films such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, and Volver.

A self-taught auteur, Almodóvar draws on influences as diverse as Douglas Sirk, Frank Tashlin, Andy Warhol and John Waters. His feature films borrow liberally from, and frequently invert, traditional genres of classic American cinema—including film noir, melodrama and screwball comedy. Yet they remain unmistakably Iberian, rooted predominantly in the director's beloved Madrid, exploring Spanish myths and modernity to the rhythms of bolero-laden soundtracks. Most recently, the enfant terrible of the 1980s arthouse scene has matured into the Academy Award-winning director of All About My Mother, a film universally acknowledged for its emotional resonance, sophistication and craftsmanship. Almodóvar’s distinctive, once marginalized world has finally entered the mainstream.

For this unprecedented monograph, Pedro Almodóvar has given TASCHEN complete access to his archives, including never-before-published images, such as personal photos he took during filming. In addition to writing captions for the photos, Almodóvar invited prominent Spanish authors to write introductions to each of his films, and selected many of his own texts to accompany this visual odyssey through his complete works.

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Tags: director: pedro almodovar, gay classics, persistent voices

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