Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is tricked by his mom into coming to Paris from Mexico to work at a calendar company, moves in next door to Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Job turns out to suck, not that he shows up for it very often, and after briefly falling for her friend, Stephane gets a thing for Stephanie. Unfortunately he lives completely in his dream world and can’t communicate with regular people, eventually has to give up on job and girl and go home.

Gondry isn’t trying to tell us that he is Stephane, since Gondry has a successful career and at least two kids, although both Gondry and Stephane make creative things out of paper and film, and both sometimes get big hands when they sleep. Just saying that dreams are great but it’s important to have a grip.

Stephane isn’t much of a romantic lead. Sometimes he screws up in an endearing way, but sometimes in a creepy, maladjusted, antisocial way. He’s determined when it comes to getting the girl or making crafts, not about holding down a job.

Movie is worth seeing of course because it’s the closest thing to a Gondry music video (mostly minus the music, though I heard a Jack White band in one scene) and that’s just what I’ve been clamoring for. Got what I deserved, and I’m loving it, though I feel the loss of writer Charlie Kaufman. Wonderful: the dreams, the one-second time-travel machine, Stephane’s co-worker, the music he composes using only the broken keys on Stephanie’s piano, the homemade feel to everything.

What did everyone else say?

Robert Keser in Bright Lights After Dark: “it charts Stéphane’s hilariously tortuous passage from awkward man-boy to still awkward man”. But does he become a man? His father dies (an important step towards manhood in the movies) but he’s still running away at the end. Or maybe these experiences in Paris will make him better understand himself in Mexico (we know nothing of his life there). Not putting Keser down: his is the best and most thoughtful review so far.

Ed Gonzalez in Slant Magazine: “Gondry, like David Lynch, makes art from the many-spindled arcs of our dreams and fantasies, but Lynch hasn’t gone so far as to suggest that our dreams are works of art themselves, our imagination a gallery of unfinished, haunted frescos. To submit to Science of Sleep becomes something strangely akin to acknowledging that our dreams make more sense than our waking life.”

Paul: “I did not like the ending much though, as both characters seemed too petulant. he kept saying desperate inappropriate things then went into her bed w/o permission.. made me uncomfy.”

Diego (Nacho Martinez) is an ex-bullfighter. Now injured, he teaches his matador skills to a class which includes Angel (Antonio Banderas), who lives across the street from Diego’s cute young girlfriend Eva (Eva Cobo). Meanwhile, elsewhere in town, Maria (Assumpta Serna, later in Sam Fuller’s Day of Reckoning and the Quays’ Piano Tuner of Earthquakes) worships Diego, and has started killing men Matador-style while having sex with them.

After lamely trying to rape Eva (demonstrating the same stalkerish, kidnapping behavior as every other Almodovar film he’s in), religion-oppressed Antonio turns himself in to the police inspector (Eusebio Poncela from Law of Desire, who looks a lot like Diego so I thought the Matador was also the inspector for a few confusing minutes). That leads nowhere, but to get his mother (Julieta Serrano, the crazy Lucia from Women on the Verge) and her mother (Chus Lampreave, Leo’s mother in Flower of My Secret) all upset.

Two murders are discovered and two more are suspected, and Antonio is blamed… but it’s the work of the star-crossed Matadors, with whom Antonio has some sort of psychic link. Eventually they get to kill each other like they’ve always dreamed of doing. A happy ending!

More suicide and bullfights and movies (the gore films Diego watches while masturbating at the beginning) and the usual cast. A lot more zany than Law of Desire, and to its benefit… more fun to watch. Law of Desire’s murder + police themes seemed tacked on, but Matador is all about the murder and the investigation… seems more sure of itself (until the psychic bit at the end, I guess).

Just pretty good. Some really nice shots here and there. Male-centric mostly. Flat-nose girl plays interviewer – Almodovar himself as a shopkeeper. Opens with people doing voice-over for a film! Just like Women on the Verge. All About My Mother and Flower of My Secret open with hospital training videos. A play (Jean Cocteau’s “The Human Voice”) in Desire. Talk To Her opens and closes with a play. In Desire the lead is a filmmaker, and his transsexual sister is an actress. Lots of connections here… that’s why it’s hard to keep them all straight.

Pablo (Eusebio Poncela) loves Juan (Miguel Molina), who won’t admit he loves Pablo back. Juan goes away and Antonio (Banderas, who has been stalking Pablo, a la Tie Me Up) hooks up with Pablo. Pablo has transsex sister Tina (Carmen Maura, star of Women on the Verge) whose daughter’s mother has moved to Milan. After his latest film, Pablo directs a play of The Human Voice starring his sister and her daughter. Then it gets goofy, as Antonio kills Juan, Pablo gets amnesia, and Antonio takes the sister hostage, eventually killing himself. Great final shot as typewriter hurled from apartment window inexplicably ignites a dumpster and all cops and family in street scramble up the fire escape – shot freezes, roll credits.

Movie feels like it’s going somewhere, has interesting characters (Pablo being the least interesting), then the Antonio murder turns it into standard police-investigation fare.

The police inspector is Fernando Guillen (the elusive Ivan from Women on the Verge). Nacho Martinez was a doctor but I already don’t remember him, and Augustin Almodovar was in there somewhere.

Another Almodovar centering on accidents, suicide, bullfights and brain death on hospital beds… no organ donation discussions this time, though. Opens and closes with our protagonist seeing two different plays (there are either plays or films in every Almodovar movie that I can think of). And we get a gorgeous live performance by Caetano Veloso.

Center of the movie has Marco (Dario Grandinetti) watching over his girlfriend Lydia (Rosario Flores), and Benigno (Javier Camara) watching over his wannabe girlfriend Alicia (Leonor Watling) in a hospital. None of the main actors are Almodovar regulars; it’s a whole new cast. Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) plays Alicia’s dance instructor and Augustin Almodovar has another small part but I never recognize him.

So, the twists. Travel-writer Marco doesn’t realize that matador Lydia was about to leave him for another matador the day of the accident, and Alicia’s family doesn’t realize that Benigno is Alicia’s stalker until she becomes pregnant while still in the coma, and Benigno goes to jail and soon commits suicide. Seemingly happy ending as Marco meets Alicia at the play. Hell of a movie.

Leo (Marisa Paredes, Huma in All About My Mother) is a 50-ish woman with major marital problems. Her husband Paco (Imanol Arias) is always off on distant NATO missions and when he does return one time, it’s just for an hour to shower, fight with Leo, and announce that he’s leaving her for good. He’s also having an affair with Leo’s best friend, psychologist Betty (Carmen Elias). Leo’s mother fights constantly with Leo’s sister Rosa (Rossy de Palma, the one with the nose). What’s more, Leo is secretly the hugely popular romance novelist Amanda Gris, and after interviewing for a newspaper column, the editor Angel (Juan Echanove) finds out. Fortunately, he and Leo are perfect for each other, and he even ghost-ghost-writes a couple Amanda Gris novels while Leo’s getting back on her feet by taking care of her mother in their old village. Oh also Leo’s maid Blanca stages a great flamenco show funded by a script that her son Antonio stole from Leo’s trashcan. Very much an adult movie, with the usual motherhood themes and suicide attempts. Not as wild and fun as the others… pretty grounded, for Almodovar.

Opens the same way as All About My Mother, with Betty taping a play-acted discussion at the hospital regarding organ donation after a patient has died. Nobody dies in this one, though.

Manuela (completely excellent Cecilia Roth) takes her son Esteban (Eloy Azarin) to see A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) as Blanche, and Nina (Candela Pena) as Stella. Esteban wants Huma’s autograph, chases her taxi in the rain, and is fatally struck by another car. Manuela travels from Madrid to Barcelona to tell Esteban’s father Lola (Toni Canto), a transsexual, that his son has died, and that he had a son in the first place.

In Barcelona she hooks up with Lola’s friend Agrado (Antonia San Juan), who got ripped off by Lola a few months prior. Agrado leads her to the nun Sister Maria Rosa Sanz (Penelope Cruz) to find Lola, not knowing that Sister Maria is pregnant with Lola’s son, a fact she tries to hide from her parents. The “Streetcar” theater company has also moved to Barcelona and Manuela tracks them down, sorta accidentally becoming Huma’s personal assitant (a job later handed over to Agrado), which mostly consists of tracking down Nina after she disappears to find/take drugs.

Sister Maria dies in childbirth, naming her son Esteban. Manuela becomes Esteban’s mother, because Maria’s mom has her hands full watching Maria’s alzheimers-suffering dad.

Awesome, with moving performances throughout… sad and happy and wonderful. Technically strong, well edited and written, but the entire focus is on the performances, the actresses. Worth seeing again and again. Beat a buncha movies I’ve never heard of for best foreign oscar in 2000. Apparently it was loosely based on The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau.

Both Almodovar movies seen today feature incredible coincidences happening while women search for the fathers of their children. Both take place in large cities (Madrid and Barcelona) but treat the cities like familiar towns, where you can always run into someone you know.

Almodovar’s closing dedication: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”

Pepa’s (Carmen Maura) lover Ivan (an older Fernando Guillen) is leaving her. She just found out she’s pregnant and tries unsuccessfully to contact him for two days to tell him so. She tries contacting Ivan’s former lover Lucia (Julieta Serrano) to find Ivan, but no luck. Lucia and Pepa are each convinced that Ivan is about to go on a trip with the other, but he’s off to Stockholm with a third woman, a feminist lawyer named Paulina Morales (Kiti Manver) whom Lucia and Pepa have each tried to hire.

Lucia has a son by Ivan named Carlos (Antonio Banderas with poofy hair) who shows up coincidentally to rent Pepa’s apartment with his fiancee Marisa (big-nosed Rossy de Palma). But not before Pepa’s suicidally upset friend Candela (cute, short-haired Maria Barranco) comes along to hide out after she was forced to harbor Shiite terrorists who planned to blow up tonight’s flight to Stockholm (but are now safely in police custody). Also involved are a mambo cabbie (dyed-blonde Guillermo Montesinos), a couple policemen, neighbor Ana (Ana Leza) with a motorcyclist boyfriend, and an uncredited speaking part for Javier Bardem as the messenger at the lawyer’s office who convinces her receptionist to let Pepa in for a few minutes.

In between, the bed is set on fire, the phone and answering machine both get tossed through a window, drugged gazpacho knocks everyone out, Banderas gets frisky with Candela, and Lucia gets crazy and hijacks a motorcycle.

That should be sufficient to remember plot. Movie is colorful and fun and moving and hilarious… completely awesome. Worth seeing again. A Danish movie called Pelle the Conqueror beat this and Salaam Bombay out for best foreign oscar in 1989.

IMDB says: “A fifty-year-old prostitute, no longer able to attract men, looks back on her sad life. Once a lady-in-waiting at the imperial court at Kyoto, Oharu fell in love with, and became the lover of, a man below her station. They were discovered, and Oharu and her family were exiled. For Oharu there followed a life filled with one sorrow and humiliation after another.”

That’s about right. Her dad is pretty crappy to her, and the whole “marry for love whatever the cost” message is lost pretty quickly when everyone’s social position ends up determining the rest of their shameful lives as usual. Didn’t see the big deal of this being one of the greatest movies ever made, actually got shamefully restless in my seat and hoped it would end soon. I guess Japanese period dramas were just not made for me. It’s a big deal that Toshiro Mifune is in this, but I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t recognize him and don’t know who he played (“Katsunosuke”).

Sissy Spacek is tormented daily (most memorably in a shower-room scene full of naked high-school girls), then just when she’s made to feel special (via rigged prom queen vote), down comes the pig’s blood and out pours the psychic rage (school fire), which later also takes out her tormentors (car crash) and her mother and herself (collapsing their house). A classic for obvious reasons. Spacek was memorably nude in Prime Cut also, and probably in Badlands but I don’t remember. She was 26 in this so it’s okay to get naked.

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