Review by Trylon volunteer Elizabeth Doyle
Pedro Almodóvar has an unquestionably keen eye – one filled with great affection – for women. His films are best known for their wild use of color and staunch female performances, but in the case of Hable con ella (Talk to Her), while the former is still certainly true (expressly so in the somber bullfights at the start: silk, golden threads, and buttons gleam against the skin of the woman taking on the creature amidst the dust of the solitary ring), the film is something of a twist for Almodovar: mostly, we watch the men. And the men watch the women, brood over them, care for them (or question how or if they should) as they lie comatose for the greater part of the picture.
And though, yes, the men have the most to say, in an intriguing upending of sorts of the Bechdel test: do the men ever speak to each other about anything but these women? These men, they are so feminine in their sensitivity. One is a travel writer, Marco, and the other, Benigno, a nurse. As the film begins, we see them in attendance of a dance performance in which two women, stumbling around stage with eyes closed, appear like tortured sleepwalkers. Marco is in tears the first time the camera allows us to see his face. The men don’t know it yet, but they will be brought together in a hospital, where they both spend most of their time at the bedsides of the unconscious women they seem to love. Marco, for his bullfighter girlfriend, Lydia, and Benigno, as caregiver to the patient and certain object of his longtime desire, the ballerina, Alicia.
Here, Almodóvar displays his true talent for expressing immense, unsayable shifts of emotion and action through performances within the greater movie – it begins and ends with two dance sequences that foreshadow feelings and acts that will come, and reflect on those that have already passed with more depth than words would have been able to do. And right in the middle of this framework lies a film within a film, this one wordless, to convey an act of great perversion with delicacy and possibly even love. Talk to Her can be called sublime for this tiny gem alone. It is worshipful of silent cinema.
At the core, the heart of the director is proclaimed quite plainly in a moment where Benigno is desperately trying to teach Marco how he should care for Lydia in the midst of her coma: “A woman’s brain is a mystery, and in this state even more so. You have to pay attention to women, talk to them, be thoughtful occasionally. Caress them.” Almodóvar has spent his film career paying attention to women and their mysteries, reminding us that it is pure pleasure to do so. What a perfect place to begin this series. — Elizabeth Doyle
TALK TO HER screens Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7 at 7:00 and 9:15, and Sunday, March 8 at 5:00 and 7:15 at the Trylon. Advance tickets are $8.00 and can be purchased here.