The Flower of My Secret was, by popular consensus, a tipping point in Almodóvar’s storied career – it roughly punctuated it into two halves (both in terms of timeline and count thus far), but more importantly it formally marked his departure from the kind of oddball, campy, lowbrow farce that had defined his filmography thus far, with more personal, matured, complex, stylistically dazzling and thematically diverse works thereon. Emotionally exuberant, assured juxtaposition of bold melodramatic splashes and lively comedic elements, flamboyant narrative arc, exquisite restraint, and deft infusion of an array of subtexts – from fragile relationship threads and how one’s identity can be both trapped and liberated by the secrets one keeps, to wry reflections on authorship – this remains a fabulous embodiment of the Spanish auteur’s prowess, even if it’s rather underrated vis-à-vis the string of masterworks that followed. Leo (Marisa Paredes) is a beautiful middle-aged woman on the verge of nervous breakdown – she pseudonymously writes popular but sappy romantic books, but wants to quit and publish a “real” novel instead; her senile mom (Chus Lampreave) and neurotic sister (Rossy de Palma) are hilariously at loggerheads; her marriage to her philandering military officer husband (Imanol Arias) is collapsing, while an affable newspaper editor (Juan Echanove) has fallen for her; and, her cook (Manuela Vargas), unbeknownst to her, is an incredibly talented flamenco dancer. Tremendous performances abound, led by the stunning Paredes; and there’s a magnificent flamenco performance too, featuring Vargas. Almodóvar marvelously complemented idiosyncratic characters and quirky moments with warmth, pathos and humour, layered with vibrant colours, immersive score and intertextual fun, including prophetic references to three of his future films (All About My Mother, Volver and Pain and Glory).
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Romantic Drama/Family Drama/Ensemble Film