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The Flower of My Secret (1995)
Every woman has a secret...
Filmmaker(s): Pedro Almodóvar

Leo is a middle-aged writer of popular romantic novels who writes under a pseudonym, but despises her own work. At home, her husband, who works overseas, is distant both physically and emotionally. As she reevaluates her life and writing, Leo is led to an unexpected relationship with Angel, a sensitive newspaper editor.

The Flower of My Secret (1995)

Pedro’s Layered Neuroses

I’d travel half a day to see one of his films properly projected. Even though some of his fantasies are hard to connect to, he would never fail to deliver on the cinematic front. Most viewers think the story here too melodramatic and simple. It does not seem so to me. It has multiple, contradictory nestings. It has metacharacters that temporarily settle on one character or another. It has deeply accessible feminine emotions (at least by film standards), and they are allowed to go down narrative blind alleys like life has it. It has inner film, here in the form of romance novels (and war).

We never really know when we are swimming in life or an image of life created in one of the fictions of the characters.

But the value is never in the story, it is in how the emotional space is conveyed visually. It is hard to carry a fresh impression of an Almodovar film over the years; those impressions saturate the soul as intended. So I cannot say with authority that this is at least as amazing as his best (‘Talk‘). It sure seems so; there are several shots that made me watch this three times in a row.

Some are a bit too literal for my taste, like the scene that accompanies her madness (med students protesting about sex in the street), or her breakup (bouncing marbles). But I expect these from Pedro.

Here is an example of the better kind, an amazing shot at about 55 minutes in.

Our authoress leads a double, double life. In her first full dip, she encounters her second publisher (and later ghost) who himself has a pseudonym. The shot is through a staggered glass wall. She is out of sight but there are four reflections of her, two of which are superimposed on him and his reflection. (He invites her to a screaming contest.) It is astonishing. You should know that I see four distinct layers of her being in the narrative here; it is a standard for the women in his later films.

Another shot: she has been rescued by her ghostwriter and wakes up in a strange place we don’t initially know. It is his bed we later discover. Our establishing shot is through a window over the bed to a several story high billboard of her latest book on a famous store‘s front. This is a book that she does not yet know exists. Only later do we see that the location is through a window, over a bed in his apartment with him nearby watching her in precisely the way we saw the billboard.

But the remarkable thing is not that progression as well done a reveal as it is, but how it starts, with a confusing black and white blur. Only later do we discover what it was: the zebra curtains framing the window. His vision and words do this throughout his films, moving from frame to background to immersion in a reality that merges the foreground and background situations.

The next major scene is a performance. We see her maid, unexpectedly as an accomplished dancer, in a seductive dance with her hunky son! It is deep and full of captured motion, though I think it would take a real Spaniard to get the full impression.

We soon learn that he stole her last manuscript, one she did not like, and a film is being made of it. We know also, as loyal Pedro viewers, that the film is one of the layers of his work, a few layers of which we have just seen.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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