24 January 2010

Pedro Almodovar / Kathy Griffin / Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn

In which I watched two more Almodovar films, checked out the new Kathy Griffin standup movie, rewatched an Almodovar film, and got around to watching Jamaica Inn, which I had started months ago and never finished.

First up was Dark Habits, Almodovar's third feature film. Now that I've seen all of them I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that this is his weakest film. It definitely feels interstitial. He's working on finding his voice here. There are scenes that work and there are parts that are delicious visually but it doesn't come together as a whole. It reminds me of that bit from Crimes and Misdemeanors: "When it bends it's funny. When it breaks, it's not funny." It's his usual colorful parade of drug addicts and perverts and iconoclasts but it just doesn't sing. C

Then I watched The Flower of My Secret, which is the final piece in my Pedro Almodovar viewing puzzle (not including the Super 8 films and so forth) and it feels like a piece in a puzzle, too. It seems like a nexus almost, where there's all this stuff that he returned to later with other films, especially All About My Mother, Volver, and Talk to Her. I think some of the male aspect in the film can be seen in Live Flesh as well. It reminds me of the way Tennessee Williams would first write something as a short story, rewrite it as a one act play, and rewrite it again, if necessary, as a three act play. It seems like the bastard child of the Almodovar filmography because it seems pretty much universally panned but even after watching it twice I think it's a pretty strong film. It's a gorgeously executed melodrama that's more mature than the films that came before it but less serious than the films that came after it. It's also beautifully shot. My boyfriend and I both loved it. Marisa Paredes is wonderful in it, as are Chus Lampreave (as her mother), Rossy de Palma (as her sister), and Manuela Vargas (as the maid). And of course Kiti Manver as the character that seems to have become the protagonist of All About My Mother. I don't know how to explain to someone what make Almodovar's films so good and why they mean something to me and why this exquisite, lightly comic melodrama is one of my favorites but there it is. A

Kathy Griffin's She'll Cut a Bitch is probably the weakest stand up special I've seen of hers. I usually kind of like them. I mean, I've always been entertained by them, whatever you might think about that, but there seemed to be something sort of tired, forced, or desperate about this one. Like success has made a failure of our home. It also seemed to ramble and it also seemed like there had been portions of the show edited out, which was strange for the DVD version. I streamed it on Netflix so maybe there is more on the DVD. It's weird though because the amount of swearing makes me think it wouldn't have been shot to be shown on Bravo but it seems like it must have been, given the length. C

Jamaica Inn seemed strong at the beginning when I first started watching it. It seemed so lurid and cool. But when I watched it last night, the more it went on, it lost all that mystery that reminded me of an Iris Murdoch novel and it just started to seem kind of convetional. It was all right but by the end I didn't care too much. B-

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