Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown — Essay


Thanks to you film fans, including D!, who came out to the Almodóvar Series opener Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the 602 Club here in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was a cool evening paired with another 6 oh 2 event, Noche de Español. We ate well to say the least and even the “despacito” sign wasn’t enough to stop the sangria from spilling. Oh well.

The version of Women on the Verge that I screened was a pristine Criterion Collection copy, a remastered version with wonderful liner notes from Elvira Lindo which I picked up at the equally wonderful Appleton Public Library. They do have a top notch collection that I find difficult to stump, which is saying something. And the APL is also great at digging up more obscure titles for me. Doing research for my little pre-screening spiel I discovered that a lot of early Almodóvar came about from something called La Movida Madrileña. A time after the death of ironclad dictator Francisco Franco’s 40 year rule of dogmatic, machiavellian inspired Roman Catholicism. Franco himself died only in 1975. It shocked me to realize that the rapid societal attitude changes toward individual freedom that have happened in Spain occurred during my lifetime. It made me consider how I take a lot of the freedoms we have here in the West for granted. So what happened in Spain? As I mentioned in my little film intro, people went ballistic with this new found freedom in a kind of non-gendered “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” kind of way. Maybe it’s a similar feeling a first year college student has in the dorms after deciding they are not fit for religious vows of chastity after all—“Sorry mom and dad!…and hey! Stop bogarting the bong!” And it was within this zeitgeist of personal freedom, art, music, fashion and yes filmmaking, La Movida, that the person — the film auteur— we know as Almodóvar was truly born.

We shouldn’t take our freedoms lightly. I don’t necessarily think we do but I think that there is nothing like a threat to shake us from our complacency. One thing I love about film is its ability to illuminate history like this and light us along in our path to being fully human, warts and all and respecting one another. Now if you can do this with bright primary colors, amazingly painted on fake eyelashes and totally barbiturate spiked gazpacho, as in the world of Almodóvar and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, better still.

— The next installment in The 602 Club Almodóvar Series is Saturday January 6th, 2017 at 9:PM, when I’ll screen, All About My Mother. Preceded by a Noche de Español event. Save the date and leave room for tapas.

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