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Pain, glory and scandal: Pedro Almodovar’s lockdown diaries

Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar  

One of the many positives to come out of the global lockdown, up there with the rejuvenation of the environment, in my humble opinion, is auteur Pedro Almodovar diarising his experiences, as serialised in Sight & Sound, Indiewire and elsewhere. In his first diary entry, Almodovar, in isolation from March 13, records that his solitary existence is not so different from his usual routine. He finds himself walking up and down the long corridor in his home, the one where Julieta Serrano reproached Antonio Banderas in the Oscar nominated Pain and Glory.

Because of the dire situation the world finds itself in, he says that he is not cheerful enough to write fiction. Instead, he finds solace in cinema. He likens the situation to 1950s American B cinema where evil always came from the outside and name checks The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone, The Day the Earth Stood Still, DOA, Forbidden Planet and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. “In fact, Trump already makes sure that the situation we are enduring sounds like a 50s horror film, calling the virus ‘the Chinese virus.’ Trump, another of the great illnesses of our times,” writes Almodovar, who finally escapes into the world of James Bond with Goldfinger.

Fast forwarding to the second diary, Almodovar says something that will resonate with billions — how dressing up to go out and buy supplies feels like a novel experience. And then, he socks it to us with a hitherto unknown scandal. In 1989, Madonna was obsessed with remaking Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and he was in Los Angeles for the Oscars (it lost to Bille August’s Pelle the Conqueror). Madonna invited him to the sets of Dick Tracy, where actor/director Warren Beatty and legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro treated him like royalty. When Madonna visited Madrid in 1990 as part of her Blond Ambition tour, Almodovar organised a party for her. The only person she wanted to meet was Antonio Banderas, who showed up with his wife at that time, Ana Leza. Madonna sat at the central table with Almodovar and Banderas, while Ana Leza was banished to a far table. A member of Madonna’s team was filming the proceedings. In 1991, the documentary In Bed With Madonna was released, and a portion of it was the footage filmed at Almodovar’s Madrid party, including a bit where Madonna dismisses Ana Leza with a “Get lost”. “Madonna treated us like simpletons and I had to say it one day,” writes Almodovar. “She didn’t ask for permission to use our images, and she even dubbed me — my English mustn’t have been so good.”

Almodovar ends his second diary on a sombre note. Spain has had the second highest number of coronavirus deaths, after the US. “I’d rather not think about the victims (that’s not true – I try to help to the best of my ability),” he writes. “We all know the terrible figures and I have written this precisely to forget about it; it’s a form of forward-looking escapism. If I stop to face reality I think I’ll drop dead. And I don’t want to.”

We will look at the next instalments of Almodovar’s lockdown diaries in my next column.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 1:40:09 PM |

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