It has only been a couple of years since I last reviewed Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), so there’s not much point in going into it all that deeply here (for more on the film, go to www.mountainx.com/movies). I did watch the film again recently, and I found that it hasn’t aged a bit. It’s still as fresh, as outrageous and as funny as it was when it first appeared 20 years ago, cementing Almodóvar’s position as the king of Spanish cinema. It’s also the filmmaker’s most purely “fun” picture. Sure, there are some darkish corners in the film, but, more than any other of his works, Almodóvar plays Women as pure farce.
In fact, Almodóvar deliberately sets a large chunk of the film within the confines of his heroine’s (Carmen Maura) apartment, which functions very much like a stage set (right down to a pretty dubious-looking skyline). It’s set like a stage farce—albeit one that breaks free from its confines whenever the director feels like it—and it’s played like one. It could, in fact, be rewritten as a stage piece. There are the usual Almodóvar quirks and improbabilities—not to mention the plethora of strange characters—but the main thrust of the film is speed. Everything moves fast, and nothing pauses for very long in its breakneck accumulation of events that lead to—what else?—a full-blown slapstick chase of a climax.