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High Heels

Rated R, 115 min. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Victoria Abril, Marisa Paredes, Miguel Bose, Feodor Atkine.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 3, 1992

As the press kit says, this is a departure for Almodóvar. Previously known for his biting and acerbic satires on modern life (Dark Habits, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), Spain's most celebrated director has suddenly, inexplicably taken a turn for the, hmmm, bittersweet. There is satire here (and gobs of primary colors, natch), but it's tempered by a more serious side of life that we've rarely seen from Almodóvar. Paredes stars as a once-popular chanteuse who has returned home from abroad to rekindle both her career and her damaged relationship with her daughter (Abril). This sort of daytime melodrama is hardly what the director has come to be known for, but to a point, he handles it with skillful ease. It seems Abril is now married to her mother's former lover, and when he turns up dead, the film takes off and then begins to stutter. Almodóvar has always been able to successfully subvert the conventions and constraints of whatever genre he may find himself in, and he continues to do so here. The film has a giddy edge to it; despite the lover's corpse, the whole situation seems so ridiculous you have to laugh. Almodóvar's take on the “lost parent” theme tends to be a bit more heavy-handed, and when the film zooms off in this direction, you can almost feel the laughter choke in your throat. The film flounders here, and there's a sense that the director knows what he wants to say, but isn't too sure how to go about saying it. Too bad, because if anyone could give us a new take on an old theme like this, I would have thought it might be Almodóvar. Instead, High Heels becomes mired in its own best intentions -- primary colors and all.
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