Spains Pedro Almodovar has become a darling of world cinema with his absurdist take on the battle of the sexes. In dissecting what it is that draws us together and drives us apart, he doesnt exaggerate the situation so much as show his characters acting as insanely as any of us would, given half the chance. There but for grace of timidity and the bounds of social custom go each of us. Hence, no matter how far his characters go, no matter how bizarre the situation, there is that spark of self-recognition and an uncomfortable spark it can be.
His latest exercise is TALK TO HER, in which the men of the piece are involved with women in comas, comely lasses both, but silent as the grave that each has one foot in. For journalist Marco, its Lydia (Rosario Flores), his lady bullfighter, gored by her opponent in the ring shortly after they became involved. For nurse Benigno, its Alicia (Leonor Watling), a ballerina hit by a car whom he meets when hes hired to take care of her in her persistent vegetative state. The two men meet at the care facility and form a bond, though Benigno can never quite convince Marco to talk to his bullfighter the way he talks to Alicia, describing his day a though she were hearing him and even answering.
What happens from there is a series of oddities as only Almadovar can dish them up and with that peculiar humor that is at once hilarious and disturbing. Nothing illustrates that point better than Benignos parking lot confession to Marco that he would like to marry his ballerina patient. When Marco points out that there is not part of her that can agree to the union, that shes not even conscious of his existence, Begnino calmly points out that he and his lady love get along together better than most couples he can think of.
As Benigno, Javier Camara brings a tenderness, and a sweetness that makes you want his love to conquer all. As he gently washes her body, or cuts her hair to keep it the way it was when she went into her coma, you can only think how lucky Alicia is to inspire such devotion, despite the overtones of necrophilia. Dario Grandinetti is more distant as Marco. Though he weeps at a ballet or at killing a snake for Lydia, there is no emotional connection to his character or to us.
As smart and as funny as TALK TO HER is, what most people will talk about and will, no doubt remember is what is undoubtedly the quintessential Almodovar moment. Its a film within a film that Benigno is describing to Alicia as she lies like sleeping beauty in her hospital bed. In the film, a silent like none that was ever actually produced, a scientist creates a potion to help her boyfriend lose weight. Instead, he begins to shrink until he is only inches tall, but still determined to perform his manly duty. Lets just say that he does, and through the use of an oversized, oversexed set, disappears into the seat of creation. Like all his work, its jarring and provocative to say the least. We expect nothing less from Pedro.