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Talk to Her
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Genre:Art/Foreign
Year:2002
Rating:R
Cast:Pedro AlmodĒvar, Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling

Pedro AlmodĒvar follows his international success All About My Mother with an offbeat drama that explores the friendship of two men brought together under unusual but strangely similar circumstances. Benigno (Javier Camara) is a male nurse whose apartment overlooks a dance studio run by Katerina (Geraldine Chaplin); he often sits on his balcony and watches one of Katerina's students, Alicia (Leonor Watling), and he finds himself becoming infatuated with her. When Alicia is severely injured in an auto accident that leaves her in a coma, Benigno discovers she has been admitted to the hospital where he works, and he spends his days caring for a woman he now deeply loves but has barely met. Marco (Dario Grandinetti) is a journalist who was assigned to interview Lydia (Rosario Flores), a well-known female bullfighter whose on-the rocks romance with another toreador, "El Nino de Valencia" (Adolfo Fernandez), has made her the focus of the tabloid press. During Marcos' interview with Lydia, he goes out of his way to treat her kindly, and she appears to return his attention. During the bull fight which follows, Lydia is gored by the bull, and is now in a coma; Marco is certain his interview broke her steely concentration, and he spends most of his days at the hospital, convinced her injuries are his fault. Alicia and Lydia are both housed in the same ward of the same hospital, and in time Benigno and Marco become close friends, bonding in their shared devotion to women who cannot return their affection. Mark Deming The follow-up to All About My Mother, Pedro AlmodĒvar's Oscar-winning U.S. breakthrough, Talk to Her has earned two main sorts of critical reception: 98 percent rapturous acclaim and two percent accusations of misogyny. The truth, like the film's aesthetic and sexual politics, proves slightly more difficult to pin down. There is definitely something creepy about a picture whose plot is driven by an implied act of sexual opportunism by one of its gentle protagonists. Yet this unseen violation occurs in a context so ambiguous that it's difficult to say whether the film actually condemns or condones it. Audiences kindly disposed to AlmodĒvar's distinctly stylized brand of melodrama may choose to view Talk to Her as a cautionary tale about the tendency of men to place women on pedestals and shrink back from the living, breathing reality. Others, disturbed by the lack of explicit moral judgment, may well write off the entire enterprise as a glorification of machismo wrapped in a deceptively sensitive package. In either case, despite fine performances from all the principals and a delicious cameo by Geraldine Chaplin, Talk to Her is hardly the director's most elegant marriage of form and function. Individual scenes -- a bullfight, an evocative modern dance, and an over-the-top send-up of Freudian anxiety and silent-film excess -- hammer home themes of sexual, emotional, and physical debilitation; these sequences also stand on their own as miniature triumphs of pure cinematic language. In the end, however, such parts never cohere into a magnificent whole, much as the film's story line fails to establish a decisive point of view. Even before the emergence of his recent "mature phase," AlmodĒvar's brightly decked-out production designs often disguised shades of emotional and philosophical grey. Here, the danger is that virtuoso technique may obscure a script that isn't sure what it wants to say. Brian J. Dillard

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