• This was the fourth archiveable film collaboration for Carmen Maura and Almodovar- though they had a falling out during the making of the film and Maura would not appear in another Almodovar film until 2006’s Volver.


Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown starts with one of the single greatest open title sequences in cinema history. It is a work of art in of itself. This feels rooted in his admiration for Hitchcock and potentially Fassbinder.

  • The story opens with Pepa (a never better Carmen Maura) dubbing Johnny Guitar (rooting Maura’s Pepa in Joan Crawford, Almodovar in melodrama, and all of it with a nod to Nicholas Ray’s use of color). Almodovar is obsessed with film, and an overhead shot early tracking the glow from the film projector going left to right carrying the image from the film projector to the screen.

At the 5-minute mark, Almodovar shoots Pepa from an overhead angle while she is lying face down in bed. The rugs are colored, the duvet, her costume/pajamas, the objects on the ground are part of the background. The lighting fixtures at the top of the screen make up the foreground. This is Almodovar’s greatest composition to date in his career in 1988.

The 88-minute running time is loaded with moments like these—at the six-minute mark a man is shot at the phone booth with blue glass covering and obstructing the frame.

  • At the 12-minute mark, the phone booth is used again- the wife Lucia (Julieta Serrano) is facing right with the butterfly background wallpaper.

the script is Hawks or Wilder witty- but every set up and scene is also thought about in terms of the use of gorgeous color and inventive angles

  • Vivid colors galore—reds especially- the phone, but later the gazpacho too.
  • There’s a little aside scene with Maura’s Pepa on a park bench watching life happen in some open windows just like Rear Window (there is even one window with a dancing girl). The pace and laughs though in Women on the Verge is more Hawks screwball (the rapid dialogue is His Girl Friday or Capra’s It Happened One Night) than Hitchcock—even if Almodovar will certainly pepper in some morbid dark humor as well (few have used suicide for laughs like this before). The bodies in this farce stack up as cops, finances, pile into in Pepa’s apartment near the conclusion. There is an accident involving barbiturates in the gazpacho and a political terrorism subplot (though Almodovar is far more interested in gossip, love and lust than politics).
  • Maura’s Pepa has an immaculately manicured terrace filled with plant life and a great view that works as a great backdrop for this melodrama.
  • A bleach blonde taxi driver (Guillermo Montesinos) showing up often connecting all the absurdity just like a studio era comedy would.
  • At the 56-minute mark Lucia is on the phone, looking directly at the camera with the costume design and wallpaper/décor that made Almodovar famous (this film is a big international breakthrough for him)—after Lucia, Maura’s Pepa is doing the same thing talking to Lucia on the phone but looking directly at the camera.

an artistically transcendent exchange between Lucia (Julieta Serrano)…

…and Pepa (Carmen Maura)

  • At the 62-minute mark there is a splendid composition with the record player in the foreground right, the clock, the marbles in the middle, and Pepa in the background left.

As if this wasn’t all enough, Almodovar connects the Lucia character with The Wizard of Oz and the wicked witch of the west with a profile shot hair blowing back like she’s on a broom.

  • A Masterpiece