Matador (1986)


Spain. 1986.


Director/Screenplay – Pedro Almodovar, Story – Pedro Almodovar & Jesus Ferrero, Producer – Miguel Gomez, Photography – Angel Luis Fernandez, Music – Bernardo Bonezzi, Special Effects – Reyes Abade, Art Direction – R. Arango, J. Morales & J. Roselli. Production Company – Iberoamericana De TV/TVE


Nacho Martinez (Diego Montes), Assumpta Serna (Maria Cardenal), Antonio Banderas (Angel Gimenez), Eva Cobo (Eva Soler), Eusebio Poncela (Comisario del Valle), Julieta Serrano (Berta), Chus Lampreave (Pilar Soler), Carmen Maura (Julia)


Mother-dominated Angel Gimenez confesses to his bullfighting instructor Diego Montes that he is a virgin. He becomes angered when Diego Angel insinuates that he is gay. Angel tries to prove himself by raping Diego’s girlfriend. When that fails, Angel confesses to a series of killings around the city and is promptly arrested. In fact, the murders have been committed by Diego and Maria Cardenal, the lawyer that Angel is assigned at his trial, both of whom are sexually obsessed with death. When Diego and Maria both realize that the other is responsible, they form a fatal attraction.

Matador was one of the earlier films of Spain’s most famous living director Pedro Almodovar, made before Almodovar became known internationally with films like Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1987), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), All About My Mother (1999), Talk To Her (2002), Bad Education (2004) and Broken Embraces (2009).

In his early films, Pedro Almodovar charted out an area of outrage and alternate sexuality that frequently made him the target of justifiable outraged church and feminist groups – his films bustle with a gaudy parade of smack-shooting nuns, cheerful rapists, crossdressers and the like. Almodovar lays into his feminist critics here, showing them angrily demanding the indictment of Antonio Banderas for the murders to which his woman lawyer sardonically replies “Under the Spanish constitution, every person has the right to representation,” before revealing she herself to be the killer. Any film that opens the image of someone whacking off beneath the credits to a compilation of images from old Mario Bava movies cannot be all bad, one feels. A few minutes later, there is an amusingly tongue-in-cheek scene with Assumpta Serna seducing and killing a guy, which is intercut with much Freudian innuendo about setting up and killing a bull by thrusting the sword into its neck. There is also an amusing parody of a fashion show with a director who insists that a costume that gets vomited on should be left as is for art’s sake and answers the press “Of course marriage is necessary, otherwise there wouldn’t be wedding dresses.”

However, Pedro Almodovar’s earlier films – Dark Habits (1983), Law of Desire (1987) and Matador – lack the giddy charms of the later breakthrough ones and Matador never quite comes together. For the necrophile theme that Pedro Almodovar takes up, Matador is never conducted with enough black humour and is not nearly as funny or as taboo-breaking as it might seem in synopsis.

Pedro Almodovar later returned to fantastic cinema with the quasi-ghost story Volver (2006) and the amazing The Skin I Live In (2011) about an obsessive surgeon who keeps a woman his prisoner. Almodovar has also produced other genre films such as Alex de la Iglesia’s gonzo science-fiction film Accion Mutante (1993), a Spanish version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with My Name is Shadow (1996) and Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone (2001).

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