Talk to Her (Spain; 112min.)

directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
starring: Javier Cámara; Darío Grandinetti; Leonor Watling; Rosario Flores
Hable con Ella
Hilary says: "Almodóvar has produced another brilliantly twisted love story, one that I can't stop thinking about. Javier Cámara as Benigno was the standout for me. Beningo is both masculine and feminine, man and child, gentle and aggressive, caring and obsessive. At first glance, he appears to be grounded in the harsh realities of working in a coma clinic, but soon we see that he living in a fantasy world in which his comatose patient, Alicia, will marry him. He lovingly cares for her: cutting her hair, manicuring her nails, massaging her lifeless limbs and taking her out onto the terrace to sunbathe. He constantly speaks to Alicia, describing movies and dance performances, asking her opinion on furnishings for the love nest he's creating for them out of his late mother's apartment. Norman Bates through the lens of Almodóvar.

"I agree with Michael about Rosario Flores. She is a rangy figure, all huge features on a long, slim face and ropy body. She looks quite out of place when she wears 'traditional' women's clothing and jewelery with her hair down, but is striking in the elaborate traditional dress of the toreador. When she appears in the ring she is quite ugly (by conventional definition) but you can't take your eyes off her. Like Beningo (and all the other characters ultimately) she is an intriguing combination of male and female, power and submission, modern and traditional.

"There is not a wasted shot in this film. Almodóvar's eye is utterly precise, as he weaves this wild and unlikely story in which the characters' world progressively grows smaller, as their lives draw together and begin to overlap.

"I'm still mulling a bit. Although ultimately I might like ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER more, I could hardly deny the power of this film. Almodóvar, Cámara and the film will be receiving my noms. "
Michael says: "A group of us saw Pedro Almodovar's sublime TALK TO HER last night. That Spanish director's eye for creating exquisite visual portraits using the language of film just keeps growing. Each scene is so carefully crafted, and his camera roams over its subjects with such care and love.

"I also love Almodovar's talent for finding actresses who are fascinating to look at. Rosario Flores' bullfighting Lydia is not a classic beauty, but I could hardly take my eyes off her when she was on the screen. She was reminiscent of Rossy DePalma, who I adore.

"Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the film, it wasn't the masterpiece for me that it has been for many. I didn't feel the story was as strong as some of his earlier works, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER inclusive. And put me in the minority who miss the director's irreverent, over-the-top films of his earlier career. Despite the maturity of his recent films, I still count WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, and LAW OF DESIRE as his masterpieces." 3 1/2 cats
Robin says: "Almodovar is known for his deft use of large, female ensemble casts of characters but departs from his norm with TALK TO HER, a tale of two very different men thrust together by fate. Benigno is a male nurse in the swanky private hospital, El Bosque, and is one of the full time care givers for a coma patient, Alicia (Leonore Watling), the daughter of a well-to-do local psychiatrist. The young nurse spent his life caring for his self-invalided mother, learning nursing, hairdressing and beauty care to help him accomplish his task. When Alicia is struck down to her vegetative state in a tragic car accident, Benigno, who has admired the girl from afar at the local dance academy, happily takes the job to care for her.

"Marco's editor gave him the assignment to garner an interview with controversial femme bullfighter Lydia (Rosario Flores) but, instead, saves her from a snake and falls in love. The tragic incident in the ring, and subsequent coma, has put their relationship on hold and Marco is set adrift, not understanding what to do. Benigno notices him walking the halls and draws Marco in to meet Alicia. The nurse is aware of Lydia's plight and offers his assistance to Marco if he needs any help. Benigno advises his new friend that it is important that Marco 'talk to her.' Lydia may not be able to hear you but, then again, she just might, Benigno believes.

"A bond grows between Benigno and Marco with their common cause and they even bring Alicia and Lydia together to sit outside, catch some rays and get some fresh air. Time and routine roll along as Benigno performs his daily rituals in caring for Alicia, sharing shift responsibilities with Rosa (Mariola Fuentes), who secretly harbors a crush for effeminate Benigno. As he massages, moisturizes, grooms, bathes, shampoos and manicures his ward Benigno regales Alicia with his private life, especially his fondness for old, often silent films.

At about the halfway mark, the action shifts to an excerpt from a soundless flick called SHRINKING LOVE, a black and white sci-fi yarn about a beautiful scientist who is too late in stopping her boyfriend from drinking her untested formula. He shrinks to a few inches tall and, eventually, has sex with his girlfriend, which gives the term 'giving head' new meaning. It's cheesy F/X and a little bit corny but it is a lot of good-natured erotic fun. But, this interlude is a sly bit of misdirection as something happens, as we watch the silent film, which changes Benigno's life forever. Marco, in the Middle East at the time, returns to Spain and stands by his friend as things go tragically wrong.

"Pedro Almodovar is a world-class director and has a body of work to be proud of. With TALK TO HER he explores little visited story concept of the life of a coma patient and those who are their caretakers. For Benigno, it's just a matter of switching patients. He was a good boy taking care of his mom, who suddenly decided to become a bed-ridden invalid when her husband abandoned her. As he got older and she more dependent he earned his nursing certificate and the other skills without intruding too much on the care and feeding of mom. When she passed away and the opportunity arises to take the well-paying job caring for Alicia, he jumps at the opportunity to be near the girl who, before, was only an elusive dream. There is a hidden agenda though and, well, see the film and judge for yourself.

"The performances are top notch with Javier Camara giving a standout perf as Benigno. The actor actually learned the tasks he performs for Alicia, from massage to cutting hair to performing his nursing duties with meticulous care, creating a realistic character. His moral dilemma, and subsequent legal problems, bears down on the viewer, too, as we empathize with the man's slightly aberrant view of life. Camara has been on a number of best actor lists and he has the presence of character, as Benigno, to deserve the attention.

"Dario Grandinetti gives a more closed, introspective performance as Marco. We find out that he had a long-term relationship with Angela (Elena Anaya), a young lady with a fondness for partaking in Madrid's heroin trade. He took her away to exotic places and they found their métier in creating an offbeat series of fairly popular travelogues. They return to Madrid only to have Angela's parents take her away for him and Marco never sees his love again. When he meets Lydia he is taken by her intelligence, artistry and willingness to fight the odds as a lone female in the male dominated sport of bullfighting. He puts aside his interview plans and is, instead, courteously attentive to her desire for privacy which plays out to a romantic relationship which is terminated by the abrupt violence in the bullring, (Note that he bullfighting scenes are shot elegantly but the effects of the blood sport are visually apparent and probably not for the squeamish.)

"The supporting cast is limited but is good nonetheless. Leonore Watling has the tough job of lying quietly and being manipulated without a single flinch. Interspersed flashbacks show the girl's lively and loving nature, especially for her mentor, Katerina (Geraldine Chaplain) the former ballerina and present owner/teacher of the Decadence Dance Academy. Rosario Flores carries her self with the posture and dignity of a real bullfighter. She wears the suit of lights with the air of an athlete but also conveys her doubts over being accepted in the male-dominated world. Hers is a conflicted and complex character Lydia, unfortunately, is in the picture far too briefly.

"Behind the camera work suits the quality of the acting and the screenplay (by Almodovar). Esther Garcia gives the production design a degree of warmth that belies its primarily hospital setting as Benigno brings Alicia's bedroom accoutrements to her hospital room to give it a homey feel. Javier Aguirresarobe lenses the proceeds capably and with visual imagination. Alberto Iglesias's score flows nicely with the story.

"TALK TO HER is the kind of film that grows on you upon reflection. The quiet, effective performances of its stars create a bond of friendship, though begun out of necessity, that continues to the end." 4 1/2 cats