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  Law of Desire Number One Fan
Year: 1987
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Stars: Eusebio Poncela, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Miguel Molina, Fernando Guillén, Manuela Velasco, Nacho Martínez, Bibiana Fernández, Helga Liné, Germán Cobos, Rossy de Palma
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Pablo Quintero (Eusebio Poncela) is a successful filmmaker who creates work that reflects his gay sensibilities, and his latest is no exception. At the premiere, it all seems to be a roaring success, and Pablo is congratulated by his transexual sister, once his brother, Tina (Carmen Maura), but there's one fellow for whom the film means far more than most: Antonio (Antonio Banderas), who is so impressed with the screening that he goes to masturbate in the toilets immediately after watching it. Pablo knows nothing of this and goes home with a young man, but he's so tired he sends him away - the man he really wants is Juan (Miguel Molina), who shows up at his apartment a while later. Pablo is in love with Juan, but Juan is not in love with Pablo; this is a great source of regret to the director, and neither of them know that their relationship, such as it is, will end in tragedy...

From that synopsis of the first fifteen minutes, Law of Desire, or La Ley del Deseo to give it the original title, might sound as if it will be an outrageous gay melodrama, but as usual with writer and director Pedro Almodóvar these supposedly shocking trappings are mere adornments to what he is more interested in. Which is, the emotional lives of his characters, meaning that the shock value is diminished once you begin to watch the film, even if it does start with two middle aged voiceover artists dubbing a raunchy section of Pablo's movie, a scene played for laughs. What these characters are is lonely, and a few of them will go to extraordinary lengths to sate their desire for company and above that, love, with one even resorting to murder to get his way.

But before that turning point in the plot, the film carries itself like a reflective drama, with Pablo and Tina's relationships under the microscope. Although now a woman, Tina had a child when she was a man, a girl called Ada (Manuela Velasco), and her mother - her natural mother (are you following this?) - wants to take her to live with her in Milan. Tina is just one of the people featured here who ache for love, and who are frustrated - it's a running theme. However, Antonio takes his desire too far, and has become obsessed with Pablo, following him ardently, whether it's through his work or his interviews on television, and now makes up his mind to be a part of his life as the lover that Pablo wants Juan to be. We don't really get to know Juan, as he wanders off early on, so Pablo's longings for him come over as more abstract.

There are many stylish touches to Almodóvar's technique, not simply an case of over the top emotions - thankfully there's not much in the way of shouting. Some of these touches are charming, such as Tina breaking out into song in a church, or Pablo's tapping away at the keys of his typewriter in time with the music on the soundtrack, or even Pablo's crying eyes superimposed over the spinning wheels of his car. But it's those passions that Almodóvar makes the most of, as Antonio forces his way into Pablo's life, first as a fan, and later as a lover where he is guided by the director - you can't imagine Banderas taking part in such sequences later in his career, but this was at a stage where he was more experimental. Strangely, Antonio is not entirely the villain of the piece as despite his acts Pablo feels sympathy for him, as witnessed in the final scene, where the melodrama either sweeps you up or has you rolling your eyes. That could be Law of Desire's problem, it takes itself perfectly seriously even at its silliest. Music by Bernardo Bonezzi.

[This title is included in the Blu-ray box set The Almodóvar Collection, with excellent prints of not only Law of Desire but also Dark Habits, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Kika and Flower of My Secret. Each disc has a featurette of interviews with selected cast members and their director, plus an introduction by an expert.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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