Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Talk To Her: Grade A

Talk To Her (2002). (Spanish, subtitled)
Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Lenore Watling, Rosario Flores. Director Pedro Almodovar.

In this ingenious story, a male nurse (Camara) attends to a beautiful woman (Watling) who has been in a coma for four years. He washes her hair, applies lotions to her body, and massages all her muscles every day. It is not difficult to imagine how that relationship might develop. He talks to her as if she were fully present, reading to her, telling her about his day, confessing his secrets. That approach is cheerful and charming at first but soon you realize that he actually prefers a woman who is no more than a beautiful body, the ultimate dehumanization of woman into a male sex object.

In a parallel relationship, another man (Grandinetti) is emotionally attached to a woman he only recently met (Flores) but she had an injury and goes into a coma at the same hospital as the first pair. Camara urges Grandinetti to talk to his comatose woman the way he does to his, but Grandinetti thinks that is too weird. The men nevertheless develop a friendship around their concern for their women. Grandinetti’s relationship with his woman is sentimental. He is in love with the memory of who she was, not the corpse she is now. The two men form an emotional relationship that might be more grounded in reality than their relationship with their women.

The pace is slow (as European films are for Americans), but the filmmaking is enjoyable, with lots of clever symbolism and dark humor. Acting is strong, and the music is outstanding, ranging from Carlos Jobim to K.D. Laing, to Henry Purcell. Cinematography is a treat for the eyes. Almodovar’s well-known misogyny is evident, but his exploration of sexual feelings, emotions, urges, and relationships goes beyond simple categories.

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