REVIEWED BY: The Naked Kiss Posted on 09/10/2010
I’ve always heard good things about Almodovar’s films but you know how it goes, so many films… so little time. As an introduction to his work, High Heels has left me wanting to check out more of his films.
High Heels feels like the Spanish equivalent of a Douglas Sirk film, only more sexual and visually bizarre, oh, and violent. The story revolves around Rebecca, a TV news broadcaster, who was abandoned by her mother as a small child. Her mother (singer Becky del Paramo), whom Rebecca idolizes, chose her career over her daughter and is now returning to Spain. Upon her arrival Becky discovers that her daughter is dating and plans to marry one of her ex-partners.
Essentially a melodrama mixed with a crime-thriller, it becomes so much more than this because of its colourful textures, vivid storyline and brilliant characters. High Heels is essentially an ultimate Hollywood melodrama only it hasn’t received that recognition because it’s not in English and doesn’t star any famous Americans. Yes, at times it’s campy (yeah, like Mommie Dearest or Mildred Pierce weren’t), but it’s a very layered film that spans genres from black humour, crime, mystery, melodrama to love story, hell it even has a musical number. It’s very experimental but I didn’t feel this detracted from the story, if anything it gives this tired mother/daughter rivalry a brilliant facelift.
The name of the film is really lost in the translation. It actually means “distant heels” and refers to Rebecca listening to her mother’s heels as a child; she tells her mother that she could not sleep “until I heard your distant heels”. I guess High Heels is more of an interesting and potentially racy title but throughout the whole movie I was trying to find the importance of high heels and it wasn’t until the end that I found out why they were so important. I was reading meanings into situations such as when Becky stands in dog-shit whilst in her heels. There’s lots of little things in the film that I found carried a lot of commentary, from Becky abandoning her child and after 20 odd years filling the role of mother in the form of a sacrifice (which many see motherhood as one big sacrifice); down to the acceptance and celebration of flawed individuals. High Heels tells the stories of transvestites, murderesses, bad mothers and drug addicts without any judgment.
As far as the release itself there’s no extras bar a TV Spot, after researching other releases it seems that they are all mostly bare-boned except for the R0 No Shame Films release. It would have been interesting to listen to a commentary or interview with Almodovar as there is so much symbolism within the film and one can’t ignore the resemblance of the mother/daughter relationship of Joan and Christine Crawford in Mommie Dearest; also the real life story of how Lana Turner’s daughter killed her mother’s partner also seems relevant especially considering the likeness of High Heels to Sirk’s film adaptation of the book/remake: Imitation of Life which stared Lana Turner.
A solid release and a must have for Almodovar fans. If you haven’t checked out any of his work before then I’d give this a go if you like charismatic/odd-ball foreign films.
DIRECTOR(S): Pedro Almodóvar | COUNTRY: Spain / France | YEAR 1991 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Umbrella Entertainment | RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 (1.77:1) | REGION: All | DISCS: 1
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