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‘Julieta’ Director Pedro Almodóvar: ‘Film Right Now Is Worse Than it Used to Be’

Variety logo Variety 12/14/2016 Brent Lang
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Pedro Almodóvar sits in a swank hotel restaurant in Midtown Manhattan decked out in a blazing red sweater, looking a little stunned by the December chill. It’s an appropriate fashion choice for the Spanish auteur behind “All About My Mother,” “Talk to Her,” and “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” to name just a few. No filmmaker has ever gotten more leverage from a color: Red, at its biggest, most sensual, and blistering, appears frequently in Almodóvar’s films, popping up in carpets, drapery, couches, dresses, and, of course, blood. At one time, such brashness was a reflection of his status as the enfant terrible of foreign-language cinema.

But Almodóvar is older now. His helmet of spiky hair is nearly completely gray. His most recent effort, “Julieta,” is also one of his more restrained works, adapting a series of Alice Munro stories that dramatize the disintegration of a relationship between a mother and daughter. Armed with a cup of coffee to fight the cold, the filmmaker discusses what drew him to “Julieta,” as well as politics, sex, and his dissatisfaction with modern movies.

Do you ever watch your movies after they’re finished?

I cannot be a spectator of my own work. In general, things that are related to my own life I’m not that interested in.

Have you ever tried to keep a diary?
I tried many times, but I only wrote something when I was very depressed.
When you watch other people’s movies do you think about how you would have shot them differently?
I never sit there and think how I would do something differently, except for movies that I don’t like and I don’t like for specific reasons. Then I might think about the technical aspects of what I would have done.

What do you think about the state of Hollywood movies?

It’s very difficult for me to go to the theater and find movies that I love — much more difficult than before. Maybe I’m getting old. Either that or I find it more difficult for a story to surprise me. I think that film right now is worse than it used to be. For example, I don’t think that you see the kinds of films you saw in the ’60s or the ’70s.

I have no real interest in films that have to do with superheroes and sequels, prequels, reboots — all this kind of business. Ironically, on some level, the fact that movies are so technically proficient works against them. I used to be interested in the adventure film or any chase film before the effects were so perfect. The digital, the synthetic aspect of the image, has taken some of that away from me. There was a sense of danger that was exciting.

Did you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”?

No. The last adventure film I liked a lot was Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

What movies have you enjoyed recently?

I saw “Silence” by Martin Scorsese. It’s absolutely one of my favorites. I felt it was sort of a spiritual adventure. I come from a Catholic country. I’m an atheist, but I’m very interested in faith.

I want to see “Moonlight.” I loved “Manchester by the Sea.” I loved the script by Kenneth Lonergan and I loved Casey Affleck.

Do you see any similarities between the way “Julieta” treats the subject of grief and the way “Manchester” deals with that issue?

They’re two very different films, but as directors, we have both approached the subject of pain in a very sober and unaffected way. For both movies, it might be more pleasing for there to be some closure, but it would be false for the films to have a happy ending.

Do you think celebrities should weigh in on politics?

Artists are citizens like anybody else and should be able to express their opposition, if that’s how they feel, toward the government. Artists should express their ideas, but I don’t think that our opinion should be more valued than anyone else’s.

Your films have a lot of sex. Do you use sex to make a political statement?

I’m not thinking about how it’s going to be perceived or whether it’s going to be censored. I’m not thinking so much of politics. My great privilege as an artist is to represent life from my point of view. That point of view sees many different kinds of people and identities and many different kinds of relationships to sexuality. I present life as I see it, in its multiplicity. When you look at television or reality television, there’s much broader visibility for transgender people, and I’m happy to see this change.

Do you feel you had a role to play in that change?

I wouldn’t want to be so presumptuous. But if I have, I’m happy to be a part of this change. The world changes and the world evolves.

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