For our Fall Sunday afternoon series at the Chazen Museum of Art, we will screen the beautiful and influential work of contemporary Spanish cinema’s best-known filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar. A veritable industry onto himself, Almodóvar, as a writer, producer and director, has carved out a substantial slice of the international moviegoing audience for his classically told tales of offbeat lives and offbeat love. Almodóvar is an artist who does not hide his cinematic influences but every aspect of his work – from production design to storytelling techniques - always feels decidedly personal.

  • Sun., Sep. 3 | 2:00 PM

A triumph of pop art, this exuberant screwball comedy catapulted Almodóvar to the forefront of world cinema.  Frequent collaborator Maura gives the performance of her career as a jilted actress holed up in her posh apartment, awaiting a phone call from her costar lover.  She is visited by a roundelay of hilarious, similarly scorned characters, whose companionship mostly serves to drive each other even crazier.  All of Almodóvar’s specialities—fizzy patter, delirious plotting, dazzling production design, a gallery of indelible female characters—coalesce to perfection.  A Spanish box office sensation and Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown introduced the rest of the world to Almodóvar’s singularly expressive style. (MK)

  • Sun., Sep. 10 | 2:00 PM

In one of his first starring roles, a young Banderas plays a student matador who suffers from vertigo and faints at the sight of blood.  One such spell leads him to confess to a series of murders he did not commit—but the real killers lurk close by.  While still in keeping with the taboo-busting dark comedy of Almodóvar’s enfant terrible origins, Matador begins the shift towards the greater narrative and stylistic complexity of his later masterworks. (MK)

  • Sun., Sep. 17 | 2:00 PM

Having secured his reputation as a master dramatist, Almodóvar returned to his campy roots with this effervescent farce.  On a transatlantic flight with a uniquely cabaret vibe, a crew of flamboyant flight attendants cater to a cabin full of newlyweds, criminals, and one virgin psychic harboring a major premonition.  Buoyant with synchronized dance routines, mescaline-laced cocktails, and frequent detours into the mile-high club, this giddy comic delight was curiously overlooked upon its initial release. Don’t pass it up. (MK)

  • Sun., Sep. 24 | 2:00 PM

A gay love triangle forms the basis for one of Almodóvar’s most erotically charged films.  This steamy tale of lust and obsession begins when a director, temporarily abandoned by his lover, hooks up with a closeted stalker (Banderas, young and hunky).  When it becomes clear that none of the three can fully possess the others, one of them will have to be eliminated.  Law of Desire was the first film produced by El Deseo, the company founded by the Almodóvar brothers, achieving a newfound creative control that is evident in every carefully designed frame.  This is one of the most personal of Almodóvar’s early works, and the director has referred to it as “the key film of my life and career.” (MK)

  • Sun., Oct. 1 | 2:00 PM

In 1990s Madrid, a blinded screenwriter ruminates on his doomed love triangle with an actress (Cruz) and a stockbroker.  Working with the largest budget of his career, Broken Embraces represents the sumptuous pinnacle of Almodóvar’s visual design, resplendent with florid colors and rich textural detail.  “Four stars.  A voluptuary of a film… as it ravished me, I longed for a freeze frame to allow me to savor a shot.  Pedro Almodóvar loves the movies with lust and abandon and the skill of an experienced lover.  Never has he made a film more visually pulsating” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). (MK)

  • Sun., Oct. 8 | 2:00 PM

After a long absence, an aging pop star returns to her native Madrid to find drag queens reenacting her past, and her estranged daughter married to one of her ex-lovers.  But their long-awaited family reunion is derailed by a murder that provokes a flurry of confessions. High Heels pays tribute to classic mother-daughter melodramas like Imitation of Life, Mildred Pierce, and Stella Dallas, while retaining Almodóvar’s outlandish modern bite. (MK)

  • Sun., Oct. 15 | 2:00 PM

In a role that earned her an Oscar-nomination (and comparisons to Sophia Loren), Penelope Cruz stars in Almodóvar’s wonderfully unpredictable film that details the relationships between multiple generations of strong and eccentric women: some of whom are living, some dead, and others between life and death.

  • Sun., Oct. 22 | 2:00 PM

Banderas stars in this flagrantly outrageous BDSM romance, one of Almodóvar’s most controversial creations.  Freshly released from a mental hospital, a psychopath (Banderas) kidnaps a former porn star (Abril) with the intention of making her fall in love with him… and it kind of works.   Only Almodóvar would dare make Stockholm Syndrome this sexy and funny.  Initially branded with the pornography-associated X rating by the MPAA, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was one of the main examples that led to the creation of the NC-17 rating in 1990. (MK)

  • Sun., Oct. 29 | 2:00 PM

Twenty years after Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Antonio Banderas makes a grand return to Almodóvar’s cinema, fittingly for the director’s kinkiest film since.  Banderas plays a debonair mad scientist who has developed a form of artificial skin, which he tests on a captive-cum-human sculpture in his secret laboratory.  With shades of Eyes Without a Face and Vertigo, this is the closest Almodóvar has come to a horror film, albeit one invested as much in perversity as chills.  “Fantastically twisted… a luxury pulp fiction” (The Guardian). (MK)

  • Sun., Nov. 5 | 2:00 PM

The great Maura stars as a pill-popping cleaning lady whose home life has spun hilariously out of control in characteristically Almodóvarian fashion.  She’s crammed into a Madrid apartment with her dimly chauvinist husband and two dubiously entrepreneurial sons (one’s selling drugs, the other’s selling his body) under the scolding eye of her mother-in-law, with a prostitute and a telekinetic for neighbors.  Add in her affair with an impotent cop and someone’s bound to be bumped off via a method nodding to Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter”. Print courtesy of the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. (MK)

  • Sun., Nov. 12 | 2:00 PM

Bernal stars in this ingenious labyrinth of nested stories, which takes Almodóvar’s longstanding fascination with shifting identities to its culmination.  In 1980 Madrid, a prominent film director is visited by a former lover pitching a short story taken from their youthful fling at a Catholic boarding school.  As the story is relayed, Almodóvar masterfully whisks us between multiple planes of reality, fiction, and stories-within-stories.  When the author insists on playing the lead in the production, yet another level of secrets and betrayals comes spilling forth.  “A giddy cinematic pastiche of film noir and high camp, Bad Education is about the shape-shifting artifice of dreams and the experience of going to the movies.  An embarrassment of riches” (Slant). (MK)

  • Sun., Nov. 19 | 2:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Lovelorn romance novelist Leo (Paredes) sees her own marriage to a military officer disintegrate, along with her career.  Leo longs to shake off her nom de plume and publish more serious work. Her chance comes via a newspaper editor, who unknowingly asks her to pen a scathing newspaper review of her alter ego’s latest bestseller.  Like his protagonist, Almodóvar had reached a major turning point, shedding the camp comedy and murderous intrigue of his early work and giving himself over to full-blown melodrama.  The repercussions were long-lasting—Almodóvar later mined two of this film’s minor subplots for portions of All About My Mother and Volver. (MK)

  • Sun., Dec. 3 | 2:00 PM

Almodóvar followed up the mainstream breakthrough of All About My Mother with what has become one of his most cherished films.  Two men meet in a hospital, where they tend to a pair of comatose women—one a famous bullfighter, the other an aspiring ballerina.  Their bond becomes a profound exploration of the line where devotion bleeds into obsession.  Featuring an unforgettable silent-film interlude and sublime music and dance performances by icons Caetano Veloso and Pina Bausch, Talk To Her won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. (MK)

  • Sun., Dec. 10 | 2:00 PM

A single bullet triggers a web of trysts and showdowns in one of Almodóvar’s sexiest thrillers.  Bardem stars as a plainclothes cop paralyzed by a gunshot on a domestic violence call. Six years later, he and the victim are married when the perp returns, newly released from jail.  Future muse Penelope Cruz makes her first appearance in an Almodóvar movie as Victor’s mother in the film’s prologue.  “Dazzling. Live Flesh has it all: irreverent political commentary, Buñuelian absurdities, the romantic fatalism of noir, and the juicy entanglements of the trashiest soap opera” (Scott Tobias, The AV Club). (MK)

  • Sun., Dec. 17 | 2:00 PM

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and widely heralded as Almodóvar’s crowning achievement, All About My Mother is the climax of the director’s self-described “cinema of women.”  After the death of her teenage son, a grieving mother finds comfort through bonding with a cast of quintessentially Almodóvarian characters: lesbian junkies, transsexual prostitutes, and a pregnant, HIV-positive nun.  This unabashed and authentic tearjerker brilliantly transposes the deep emotion of classic Hollywood melodramas to fin de siècle Barcelona. (MK)