Outrageous. Tender. Violent.
These are just a few of the words that describe the films of Pedro Almodovar.
Once known as the "bad boy" of Spanish cinema, the 63-year-old Almodovar (pronounced Almo-DOE-var) has become one of the great figures in international film.
Never seen one of his movies? Now's your chance.
Four of his best films will be screened as part of the series Almodovar's Women on Saturdays in March at 2 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
All films are presented in Spanish with English subtitles.
The series is co-sponsored by the Sister City Association of Kansas City - Seville Committee.
Almodovar began making films in the mid '70s, but it was only in the early '80s that his work found its way to film festivals and art houses all over the world.
Almodovar's early films were deliberately provocative, rubbing the audience's faces in violence, sex, and situations right out of film noir. He employed lurid elements and questionable taste to beat away the cobwebs left by a half-century of Franco's repressive rule.
Over time he's matured and mellowed, and certain recurring themes have emerged.
His films invariably feature large ensemble casts. And they're great looking, with brighter-than-life colors and a satirist's eye for over-the-top fashion.
Like the late playwright Tennessee Williams, Almodovar makes melodramas about slightly (or wholly) crazed women (he claims that women between the ages of 40 and 60 make up the bulk of his audience).
And like the homosexual Williams, the homosexual Almodovar identifies strongly with his female characters, many of whom fear they are no longer desirable.
His films drip black humor, and even the most serious will have a few jaw-droppingly outrageous moments.
But you can see all that for yourself. Here's the lineup:
Broken Embraces (2009) on March 9, 2013
Almodovar goes into Hitchcock mode for this tale of illicit love and brutal revenge. A film director accepts financing from a ruthless industrialist and falls for the man's beautiful mistress (Penelope Cruz), who is starring in the movie.
The story is told in flashback as the director - now blind and surviving by writing screenplays - looks back on the turning point in his life and career.
MPAA rating: R. 127 minutes.
All About My Mother (1999) on March 16, 2013
Despite some outrageous humor, this is a sincere and ultimately heart-wrenching drama that won an Oscar for best foreign language film.
A Madrid nurse (Cecilia Roth), devastated by the death of her teenage son, becomes surrogate mother to an extended family of misfit women: a pregnant nun (Penelope Cruz), a transsexual prostitute (Antonia San Juan), and a lesbian actress (Marisa Paredes).
Almodovar's valentine to the feminine capacity for compassion is presented through a tapestry of densely woven characters and plots. Within its frankly melodramatic framework the film evokes genuine feelings of love.
MPAA rating: R. 101 minutes.
The Skin I Live In (2011) on March 23, 2013
This heady mashup of mad scientist horror story, sexual fantasy, revenge yarn, and existential escape caper is simultaneously creepy and beautiful.
Vera (Elena Anaya) is a prisoner in the clinic of an obsessive plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who inch by inch, surgery by surgery is turning her into the most beautiful woman in the world.
Who is Vera? Where did she come from? And just what does she mean to the outwardly rational but emotionally tormented doctor? Is it love...or something else?
MPAA rating: R. 120 minutes
Admission is free.