Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar is a Spanish filmmaker, screenwriter and producer who returns to the big screen this week with Broken Embraces.

In recent years the director has enjoyed success with actress Penelope Cruz and it's with Cruz he returns for their new movie.

Born in Calzada de Calatrava in Spain the Almodovar was sent away to a religious boarding school at the age of eight with the family hoping that he would become priest.

But in 1967, against his family's wishes he moved to Madrid to pursue his dreams of becoming a filmmaker. But he ended up working for a telephone company.

Into the seventies and Almodovar was writing comics and for magazines as well as working with a theatre group before he began working on shorts.

Self taught as a filmmaker his shorts provided him with a playing ground for him to experiment and perfect his technique.

He made his feature debut in 1980 with Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap it was quite well received by the critics and he followed this up by Labyrinth of Passions.

But he ruffled a few feathers with his third movie Dark Habits it was rejected by the Cannes Film Festival because of the sacrilegious treatment of religion.

It was however screened at the Venice Film Festival where it divided the critics many claiming it was blasphemous and anti-Catholic.

His next two movie What Have I Done to Deserve This? and Matador went by with little fuss. And while Law of Desire won him the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival but it was Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that put him back on the movie making map.

The film is a peppy little soap bubble as TV actress Pepa (Maura) wakes up to find a note from her lover, Ivan (Fernando Guillén), informing her he is leaving. Desperate to tell him some important information, Pepa almost kills herself with sleeping pills, burns her bed, and spends most of the movie trying to track him down.

Her adventures put her in contact with Ivan's insane ex-wife (Julieta Serrano), his handsome son (Antonio Banderas), and the son's fiancée (Rossy de Palma).

They all descend on her penthouse apartment in a deliriously comic extended scene, complicated by a pitcher full of narcotic gazpacho and her friend Candela (María Barranco), a ditzy beauty wanted by the police for associating with Shiite terrorists. Through it all, the indefatigable Pepa fights gallantly against her crushing heartbreak.

This proved to be Almodovar's big break though as the film was a critical hit and went on to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar.

While he enjoyed minor success withe likes of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down and High Heels he had to wait nine years before the Oscar spotlight fell on him again.

And in 1999 he collected the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for All About My Mother, he also picked up Best Director at the Baftas and the Cannes Film Festival.

Distraught over the death of her teenage son, Manuela drives to Barcelona to find the boy's father, an itinerant transsexual named Lola (Toni Canto).

While combing the city's less reputable districts, she also meets up with Agrado (Antonia San Juan), a sassy transvestite prostitute, and Rosa (Penélope Cruz), a pregnant nun on her way to El Salvador.

She also becomes the manager for Huma (Marisa Paredes), the actress her son idolized, and helps her through a run of A Streetcar Named Desire. Together these great ladies bond through various heartrending crises, enduring the pain and celebrating the beauty of being women (or almost women).

The film is still regarded as one of Almodovar's best works and it saw him team up with actress Penelope Cruz for the first time.

Talk To Her was next in 2002 and this brought more Academy Award success for the filmmaker as he picked up a Best Original Screenplay gong for the film.

After Bad Education which, for a foreign movie, was a huge success in America he teamed up once again with Cruz for Volver.

Volver came to everyone's attention when it competed for the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2006.

Another collaboration between Cruz and Almodovar the film picked up two gongs at the festival; Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

The film moves between a La Mancha village and working-class Madrid where village daughter Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) struggles to support her family.

Circumstances seem to conspire against her, but surrounded by three generations of women - hairdresser sister Sole (Lola Dueñas), teen daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), former neighbour Agustina (Blanca Portillo) and haunted by her dead mother (Carmen Maura), Raimunda will do more than survive.

The movie was critically acclaimed, as was the performance from Cruz, she went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Broken Embraces is the couple's third movie together and caused a bit of a stir on the festival circuit earlier in the year.

The film follows a man who writes, lives and loves in darkness. Fourteen years before, he was in a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote. In the accident, he not only lost his sight, he also lost Lena, the love of his life.

Broken Embraces is out now.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

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