It’s no secret that the United States and Pedro Almodóvar have enjoyed an enduring love affair. In Hollywood and on the West Coast, the relationship is more about output, in recognition of his two Oscars, Volver’s box-office success, and every leading actress's plea for a role in his perpetually postponed first English-language film.
But over on the East Coast the fascination with the Spanish director has more to do with the qualitative, the intellectual: he’s been given an honorary Harvard degree, a retrospective at the New York Film Festival, and now an exhibit at the MoMA.
Will American viewers appreciate the melancholy tone of ‘Julieta’ amid election fever?
New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which has already paid homage to Almodóvar in a stellar 2011 tribute, has scheduled a complete retrospective exhibition of his movies from November 29 to December 17. The organizers have confirmed to EL PAÍS that the director will attend the red carpet premiere of the exhibition, as well as a press conference open to the public after one of the screenings, the date of which is to be announced.
The MoMA event will give New Yorkers the chance to look back over a career that started with what the museum calls his “exuberant entry” into the Seventh Art with 1980’s Pepi, Luci, Bom until his latest film, Julieta. The latter offering arguably evokes a greater Anglo-Saxon emotional resonance than any other of his films, thanks perhaps to its literary inspiration (the short stories of Canadian author Alice Munro). At one point the movie was due to be filmed in English, starring Meryl Streep.
Julieta won’t premiere in commercial American theaters until December 21, so for Almodóvar fans in the US this exhibition will provide the opportunity for a sneak peak on November 29, even though the film will also be screened at the New York Film Festival in September.
Between his debut and Julieta, Almodóvar has released 18 other titles, and this exhibition will explore the evolution of his romance with the United States: films from before they were truly acquainted, such as Matador, Dark Habits and What Did I Do to Deserve This? And then the film that made his name internationally, Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, the X-rated Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, which scandalized the United States, and the movie that, for a change, was better received in the United States than at home: Talk to Her.
How will the US receive Julieta now? Will it be redeemed after having the least successful Spanish commercial debut of Almodóvar’s career? Will American viewers appreciate its melancholy tone amid election fever? Or will the downward trend of commercial success that has plagued the filmmaker since Volver (the biggest box-office earner, bringing in $12 million) continue?
The MoMA, for the time being, is content to celebrate a unique director, describing him as someone who “has constructed a colorful universe inhabited by non-conventional characters, fluid sexualities and gender identities, and complex, remarkable women.”
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English version by Allison Light.