One of the most underrated of Pedro Almodóvar’s films, Kika (1993) is nonetheless a great deal of not-exactly-wholesome fun of the kind that only Almodóvar can provide. Indeed, while it’s far from his best film, it stands a pretty good chance of being the filmmaker’s most gleefully twisted one—and if you know your Almodóvar, you know that’s saying a lot. Packed into one film we have a naive nymphomaniac, a lothario serial killer, a disturbed young man with bouts of catatonia, a lesbian housekeeper who’s constantly coming on to her employer, the housekeeper’s mentally-challenged escaped-convict-porn-star-rapist brother and a tabloid TV personality with a special videographer suit complete with movie lights for breasts. And, yes, of course, it’s all housed in a trashy plot of pop-culture contrivances—even down to a mystery that’s solved by watching Joseph Losey’s The Prowler (1951) on TV and realizing how a murder was committed. Really, who could ask for more?
In tone, the film is probably most like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), but with disturbing elements that have more in common with Matador (1986). Despite its loopiness, Kika may be one of Almodóvar’s most serious works in terms of social commentary. When all is said and done, it’s a trenchant satire on tabloid television—and one that seems to have predicted just how far such programming would ultimately go and how it would infiltrate media on every level, including the supposed mainstream news. The outrageous character of Andrea (Victoria Abril)—with her ridiculous video suit and her over-the-top public persona—is a splendid creation who seems more believable today than she did in 1993.