One sort of NSFW image in here
It’s been a good while since I’ve watched an Almodovar film. I miss those bold splashes of color and hilariously melodramatic moments. This one’s great.
Antonio Banderas is Ricky, a young man recently released from an institution who is infatuated with Marina (Victoria Abril) an actress who just completed work in a horror film. As with many Almodovar films there are various side characters who flit in and out of the narrative and also find themselves infatuated, obsessed, and in love.
There’s the director, Maximo (beautifully played by Francisco Rabal), who can’t stop watching Marina’s old porn videos and neglects his wife and possibly ruins the ending of his own film because of his obsession:
There’s also a journalist who once had a relationship with the male horror-film lead (neither of them appear in the film beyond their initial time on-screen), and even a pharmacist and her lover who make a brief, 3-minute appearance, mostly in order to be shown making love.
In short, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (the title of which becomes a bit of a double-entendre by the end of the film) is sexy and about sex. Almodovar’s visual style is conducive to this. You know you’re in for a saturated ride from the opening scene. Ricky goes to the office of the institution head.
Their initial conversation is soaked in red (the curtain, their shirts, the chair):
We cut to a wider 2-shot and suddenly are dominated by a bright green blind in the background:
She stands and walks to the window to find a bright blue blind there:
I don’t know that there’s much specific color symbolism going on here, but Almodovar is introducing us to his splashy world and mise-en-scene even in a relatively mundane setting. If a psychiatrist’s office is this colorful, what would a film set look like?
That film set is fun for so many reasons. One of them is that the film (within the film) looks absurd. It’s orange and red-dominated, features a lot of on-the-nose dialogue, has centered shots that verge on direct-address, and is really, really windy:
The sequence ends with Marina hanging like a doll from a window, left to sway in the breeze alone – a position that Ricky will not allow her to stay in for long:
Almodovar is not only a fantastic location scout-
-he’s also got a great eye for the odd frame. Here’s Ricky peering through a constructed set. He’s like a giant, 80s Godzilla peeking through the city, unbeknownst to the dwellers:
And then this shot, which could be the poster for a 90s sex-thriller, is all mood and fear. It’s pretty classically framed, I’d say, in that we get more info than Marina (he’s awake and staring at her) and man, that glare…
Then there’s this shot. Which is hilarious (who has that ceiling?), gorgeous (the symmetry!), and really sexual. It’s like a pornographic panel on a chapel ceiling, which is perfectly appropriate given all of the religious iconography peppered throughout the film (sex, violence, and religion – that’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!):