How did I miss A's response! It certainly wasn't there when I replied to arsaib! Perhaps, it was being edited!
Thanks to this great debate, I am trying to think through my problems with Almodovar. I do believe that all films, however exciting or disappointing, deserve reflection. I'm keen to revisit "Talk To Her" in the light of your arguments. It has been wonderful to have such engaged responses from you guys as food for thought.
@ A and arsaib
He is like in a fairy-tale the catalyst for most of what happens, and his death might be not only the death of a character that is not needed anymore (plot-wise), but also the aknowledgment of Almodvar, that he is in fact too good for the "real" life that sets in again after the "comatose interplay".
A, I like your reading of Benigno, but the trouble is that having one's sympathies with this ethereal character (and I feel Pedro does side with him inspite of himself) means that his role as a benign caregiver (inspite of the violence/rape) is reinforced. However, he is such a wreck of a person (complicated by the fact that one cannot gauge what the problem really is except that he thinks he is gay!), that it is difficult to sustain the force of this argument. At one level, the film seems to be saying that he does these things almost unconsciously/subconsciously (at least, he isn't aware in the same way that "normal" humans are), and on the other, gestures at the strength that even a "subnormal" person has the power to bestow in a comatose woman through his love and care!
One can, perhaps, read this tension as an exploration of ambiguity, of what it means to be "normal", but I felt that it was a structural confusion because he creates this fairy-tale-like character, makes him the benign caregiver with shades of the monster, humanises the monster through the resurrection of Alicia, and then leaves him to face the consequences of his monstrosity! If "Talk To Her" is a tale of the magic wand of the fairy being burnt up by the touch of the "real", where does this break happen in the film? And are we saying that in the world of the good fairy, rape is an act of love as long as it gives the comatose the gift of life? I'd have been happier if Pedro pushed it that far, but he shrinks away from putting forward this outrageous statement and dealing with its consequences. His mostly realistic treatment throughout the rest of the film, would have made such a statement horribly incorrect politically. Benigno hovers between the fairy tale-ish and the realistic, and in the process becomes reduced to a half-articulated idea whose contours the film fails to explore.
And, its best not to speak of why Lydia is there in the film at all, except indulging Pedro's fancy for bullfights, stereotypes (the film has one androgynous woman as a foil to the "feminine" one, and an effeminate man against the somewhat rugged, designer-beard sporting Marco) and arranging, in terms of the plot, for the coincidental meeting of his two male characters. What bugged me about the ending is that bloody dance sequence (much as I admire Pina Bausch's work) called "Miracle of Life" that hints at how Marco and Alicia will come together, after the monsters have been exorcised. Oh! what an utterly middle class resolution to have your least problematic man and woman come together to live happily ever after!
On a tangent...I'm suddenly thinking of "3-Iron" at this point because it explores this moral grey zone, the act of breaking into without consent. Though Kim's task is a shade easier because he is not looking at violence perpetrated to the body (though the film is full of sexual imagery and in a sense the houses are treated like bodies), the fairy tale is so elegantly worked out that the films can dare to end by reinforcing the ambiguities rather than having to effect a resolution. Moreover, the sheer economy of the film adds to its power, and I think the scenes with the golf clubs are, perhaps, the most quietly violent (can't help the oxymoron!) sequences ever, requiring no raging bulls in a riot of colour or aestheticised B & W rape sequences. This is not to say at all that bulls and rapes are inherently offensive and, therefore, hurt my prudish sensibilities, but that it is important to consider what these images of violence bring to the film. I would like to believe that they are there for a purpose slightly more rigourous than their exotic, aesthetic or camp value. If one chooses an over-the-top vocabulary, one needs to match it with the necessary daring to carry it through, without suddenly pandering to middle class taste. Let me qualify that I have nothing against middle class cinema, but I do have a problem if it is made out to be cutting edge and radical.
arsaib, I admire Kusturica because he has consistently dared to be outrageous, and his work self-consciously lurks around the dangerous edges of the exotic without ever falling into that trap (though Zizek would claim that it does). Pedro, from what i've seen so far, hasn't made me feel that way ever, and much of my chagrin emerges from the fact that there are these momentary flashes when he comes close to it, before lapsing back into an annoying, though somewhat lovable naivete.
p.s. Giving dear Pedro a break, Sorrentino's film sounds damn interesting! www.cineuropa.org/newsdet...ntID=64756