Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Movie Information

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
Genre: Comedy
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano, Rossy de Palma, María Barranco
Rated: R

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.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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