Matador is Pedro Almodovar’s strongest effort to date in 1986. Some of his decade-spanning obsessions: vibrant colors, dark humor, mothers, and more – have been undergoing fermentation.
This is Almodóvar’s fifth film, and long gone is any trepidation or lack of confidence in his skills as a technician. You can see the confidence in the big, flashy (just like Fassbinder) red lettering for the titles.
Almodovar takes aim at religious zealots, touches on regressed homosexuality, and yes, even has rape as part of the action (as he has in pretty much every film) again.
During one exceptionally well edited sequence, Almodovar weaves in the black widow (this pre-Basic Instinct of course) murder by Assumpta Serna’s Maria with the matador training (Nacho Martinez is teacher Diego and Antonio Banderas is one of his students- Angel). The casting is interesting as in the 1990s and beyond clearly Banderas would be excellent as the more masculine, aged bullfighter.
This is densely plotted – but extremely engaging. For the first time for Almodovar there is more Hitchcock than Hawks in influence. Banderas’ character even has vertigo. Mario Bava’s (a Hitchcock acolyte himself) Blood and Black Lace is one of the films Diego is watching early.
The two criss-crossed lovers are not nymphomaniacs played for farce like Almodovar’s screwball Labyrinth of Passion– they are both obsessed with death. and this is played for dramatic effect.
At the 79-minute mark Almodovar fades to red.
As the marvelously inevitable conclusion draws to an end, Almodovar works in an eclipse, and the five characters in pursuit of the two death-starved future lovers are captured in profile at a sort of dusk in a great frame (above). Another strong composition of the two sprawled out on the bear skin run by the fire.
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