Our series on films of the 1980s spirals onwards as Brenda Cromb discusses the brilliance of Law of Desire. You can find the archives of the series here.
Vulnerable and Menacing
by Brenda Cromb
When it first came out, Almodóvar’s roman a clef, Law of Desire, got a lot of attention for being a movie about gay characters that wasn’t directly about their sexuality.
But that’s not why it’s so wonderful.
Law of Desire is basically a big gay Madrid soap opera. The story is about Pablo Quintero, director of kind of porny movies, and the men who love him, including Antonio, who stalks him and then kills his boyfriend. It is equally the story of Pablo’s transsexual sister Tina, portrayed by Carmen Maura, Almodóvar’s number one muse, in the performance of a lifetime: slightly too aware of her body, at turns hilarious and touching.
Tina’s an actress who winds up guardian of her erstwhile lover’s daughter – and in a fun bit of genderfucking, the child’s mother is portrayed by Spain’s most famous transsexual, Bíbí Andersen.
There are so many things to love about this movie: young, beautiful Antonio Banderas, who as Antonio the stalker is vulnerable and menacing at the same time; the bright, excessive art direction; frame upon frame of beauteous cinematography; the use of religious iconography in a movie that also features a dude masturbating in a bathroom.
In one memorable scene, Tina, Pablo and Tina’s adopted daughter are walking home through the hot Madrid streets and they see a man hosing down the street. Tina asks him to spray her; Pablo and the girl watch in amazement as she almost orgasmically enjoys the water. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” she says. That scene is everything that’s great about Law of Desire: visceral, joyous, bright, surprising, free. It’s moments like this that made Almodóvar an icon of post-Franco Spain.
Brenda Cromb is the senior contributor to This Recording. Her tumblr is here.
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Exactly dude. Exactly
A to A with the D.