The Flower of My Secret
1995, R, 100 min. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Marisa Paredes, Juan Echanove, Imanol Arias, Carmen Elias, Rossy De Palma, Chus Lampreave.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 26, 1996
For those who've slogged through such recent Pedro Almodóvar movies as Kika and High Heels and found them terribly wanting, and have been missing the fun and entertaining Almodóvar of his halcyon years with films such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Matador, the good news is that the old Almodóvar is back. Though The Flower of My Secret is not as crazed as Women on the Verge, the movie marks the return of Almodóvar's delicious humor and a departure from the nastier streak that this Spanish director has been on recently. The story's protagonist is a middle-aged woman named Leo (Paredes), a writer who publishes under the secret pen name Amanda Gris, the author of fabulously popular romance novels. She's having a hard time accepting the dissolution of her marriage to a dashing NATO negotiator, and she's also having a hard time with her rambunctiously spatting mother and sister. Leo's also begun publishing newspaper articles under her real name and sparks an unanticipated relationship with the paper's pudgy editor, Angel. Plot description, however, is a vastly inadequate way to describe this florid movie. It comes across like Almodóvar riffing on Fassbinder (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant comes to mind) riffing on Douglas Sirk (Imitation of Life). If that doesn't sound deliriously wonderful to you, I'd suggest that you keep your distance. For example, here's a sequence of sounds and images: Leo's face refracts into six like images; marbles bounce slowly and noisily on a wood floor; an ex-lover's footsteps echo interminably as he departs down a long circular staircase while the camera focuses rigidly on the heroine's heaving neckline; a hand reaches toward a glossy red cross which turns out to be a medicine cabinet from which the hand draws a bottle of pills; the heroine's legs framed in long shot through the arch of a doorway as a stream of projectile vomit suddenly spews across the background. The Flower of My Secret is my kind of bouquet.