In a historic cinema in the north of Paris, Pedro Almodóvar walks down the steps of a room full to the brim, with the audience standing and giving him a heartfelt ovation. Minutes later, they will rave about praise during the long question time that ends the preview of Parallel mothers. The scene, which took place on Saturday, is a promising preamble to the film’s landing in France. It will hit theaters in that country on Wednesday with 350 copies, as many as in Spain, and it is not impossible that the result of the film will improve in its country of origin, where it has had an uneven reception. Parallel mothers is, along with Juliet (2016), Almodóvar’s worst premiere since 1989 and has barely exceeded 2.5 million euros, compared to almost six in Pain and glory.
The pandemic context, with the box office low, has not favored the La Mancha director, but neither, as he acknowledges, the subject he has dealt with: the mass graves and the heritage of the Civil War. Deep down, he already suspected that Parallel mothers it wouldn’t work as well as its previous titles. “I had a feeling that there would be a coldness about the film on the part of half the country, and I attribute it to the subject I am dealing with: historical memory. Spain has always been a divided country and continues to be. To all a part of the right, the film does not make any grace to him “, responded the director this Sunday in his suite from the George V hotel, next to the Champs Elysées in Paris. “I don’t want to play the victim, because when I make a movie like this I abide by the consequences. But I have seen a coldness on the part of our compatriots, which is due to the fact of talking about a very unpleasant matter that they would like to never talk about ”. He also admits that the project, which had been dragging on for a couple of decades, was resurrected in a “more politicized” version after the emergence of Vox as a third force in Congress. “It seemed to me that it was more necessary than ever to remember where we came from and to counter the revisionism of the extreme right. Their voices are not the majority, but they make a lot of noise and pollute Spanish political life ”.
The international premiere of the film, on the other hand, has been accompanied by a shower of praise. In France, a country that has given him all possible honors – except for his coveted Palme d’Or – and where his cinema has been the object of a powerful cult since the eighties, the first echoes are tremendous, as they were before in the United States. where this fall he presented the film in New York and Los Angeles, before its premiere on December 24. “I was afraid that it was too Spanish a topic, but it gives me the feeling that all countries have dead buried in an unworthy way. Each one has done a reading of the film applying it to the place. It surprises me because, in the United States, it is the one that has received the best reviews of the 22 that I have shot, and the truth is that I do not understand it ”, Almodóvar admits. This is certified, for example, by the 100% positive opinions collected by the Rotten Tomatoes website. Without falling into a somewhat hackneyed curse, the reception of the film in Spain, which he calls “more mixed”, once again shows the usual lag between the reception of his cinema in his country and abroad. “Unfortunately, that continues to happen. I do not like to reflect on it, because it is not pleasant for me, but my films continue to be more successful outside of Spain than in our country. I am not complaining but, if I must compare, I cannot deny it. The enthusiasm and emotion that the film provokes, despite dealing with such a Spanish subject, is greater outside than inside ”.
“It is not pleasant for me, but my films continue to be more successful outside of Spain than in our country. The enthusiasm and emotion that the film provokes, despite treating such a Spanish subject, is superior outside ”
Nor did the director have much faith in the Goya nominations, announced this Monday, a few hours after the interview. “The Film Academy sent a film to the Oscars that is not mine [El buen patrón, de Fernando León de Aranoa]. It is a first gesture that is not positive and that makes me fear that it will continue in the Goya nominations, “he admitted on Sunday. “I experience it as a disappointment, for me and for my entire team, but not as an outrage. I could have gone to other countries to make films, and yet I stayed in Spain, where I have been very lucky. I have had some setback, although life can give you many more than I have received. And, above all, your career does not depend on any academy, not even on being awarded an Oscar ”. Finally, Parallel mothers obtained eight nominations, including best film, direction and leading actress for Penélope Cruz, although not best screenplay, and falling far behind the record of 20 nominations obtained by The good boss.
Above all, Almodóvar is concerned about the difficulties of Spanish cinema in theaters. “This year, viewers have seen four films, although more than 100 have been released. The bulk of Spanish cinema disappears from the billboard after five days.” The director himself was left without seeing Who prevents it, by Jonás Trueba: when he wanted to go, there was no session left in Madrid. “It is very serious for cultural diversity in Spain,” he says. He is also concerned about the havoc that the covid has caused. “What worries me the most is that adult audiences have stopped going to the movies. Those moviegoers who came once or twice a week have not returned since the pandemic began. We have lost them and it seems difficult to me that this is reversible. It is a true drama ”, concludes Almodóvar, before leaving to finish his suitcase to continue with an international journey that will take him, if the virus allows it, to the five continents.
Breaking the pact of silence
There was a time when Pedro Almodóvar did not talk about the Civil War. During a visit to Paris in 1989, the director declared to Paris Match that he did not want to “not even allow the memory of Franco to exist through [sus] films”. Three decades later, his cinema has definitively broken with the pact of silence, although it is not true that this is the first time he has addressed the matter. The police rapist of Pepi, Luci, Bom and other girls of the lot, that debut that he conceived as “a revenge against the regime”, seemed a vestige of fascism, just like Far heels briefly evoked republican exiles, Aspen meat began with the voice of Fraga decreeing the state of exception in 1970 and Bad Education it was a fierce criticism of Catholic culture during the dictatorship. “I do not agree that my films have not been political until now. They have always been, ”says Almodóvar. “Maybe the Movida was apolitical, but those of us who were part of it remembered the Franco regime perfectly. I breathed that atmosphere during my first 25 years and knew very well what it was. I’ve never actually lost my memory. “