The Spanish movie legend, Pedro Almodovar told a press conference at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday -- soon after his Competition work, Julieta, was screened -- that his and his brother’s names were some of the least important among those listed in the Panama Papers. Almodovar was said to have had links with an offshore company in the 1990s.
“My name and my brother’s name are some of the least important names in the Panama papers,” he said. “If it was a movie, we wouldn’t even be extras. The Spanish press has cast us in leading roles. There are so many names and there hasn’t been enough investigation yet.”
Almodovar chose to answer questions about his reported role in the Panama Papers scandal even though the moderator at the conference gave him the right to skip such quizzing.
Earlier in the conference, Almodovar said he “loved the thrill of the race” -- unlike directors like Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg who “found the idea of competing against common sense”.
“I don’t have Woody Allen or Steven Spielberg’s talent,” he said. “I respect the posture that they have, but if I’m here, I’d prefer to be in competition. I think it’s more exciting for me and the media. It also shows that I’m not a sacred cow here.”
Almodovar’s latest work, Julieta, is a melodrama handled with brilliant restraint, and is based on Alice Munro’s short stories about a woman reflecting on her estranged relationship with her daughter. Like most of his films, Julieta is set in Spain, though he had toyed with the idea of shooting the movie in the US with Meryl Streep.
“I was hoping to do the film in English and in New York,” he said. “I even spoke to the American actress who was delighted at the thought of working with me. But I wasn’t sure of myself.”
Saying that a lot of Julieta was set in the 1980s and that it was also inspired by his own mother, Almodovar felt that women in that era had much more freedom than what they have today. “Women now are different because of the world they live in.”
Julieta is the auteur’s 20th feature, and like most of his movies, is centred on the lives of women. His latest creation reminded one of his 2006 Oscar-clincher, Volver and Julieta has also been liberally influenced by his recent Hitchcockian dramas -- Broken Embraces and The Skin I Live In. However, Julieta is the least complex of the lot and is a simple story of a mother whose daughter on turning 18 goes away. The girl holds her mother responsible for her father’s accidental death at sea.
Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez play the title character of Julieta at different periods of her life and the two actors look uncannily similar.
Narrated as a flashback told through a letter which Julieta writes to her daughter 12 years after she disappears -- and whose address the older woman chances upon -- Julieta is every bit an Almodovar work. Strong colours (silky reds greens and blues) that are often flashy and ornately decorated interiors make Julieta enticing. One notices a Lucien Freud poster and a score book by Sakamoto in Julieta’s home at Madrid.
The film begins by showing a middle-aged Julieta all set to leave Madrid with her lover, Lorenza, when she meets a childhood friend of her daughter -- a meeting that forces a change of plans, and pushes the movie into its rocky course. Julieta unpacks and begins to write long letters to her daughter explaining how she and her father had met on a train.
Once considered enfant terrible of Spanish cinema, Almodovar has now mellowed down and Julieta may seem like a huge contrast to his early and brazen, Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down. As Almodovar once quipped, “mistakes are made, stakes have been high, but hopes remain. And life is long”. The man has terrific optimism, and we see this in the way he uses colour to pep up our mood and help us troop out of the auditorium with a swing in our stride.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Cannes Film Festival.)