by writer/director Pedro Almodóvar
Two or Three Things I Know About It (Comedy and Actors)
There is humor in all my films, and at times comedy bursts into other genres, embodied in one of the characters. Forgive the self-quote: Agrado in All About My Mother and Paca in Bad Education fulfilled that function. When they appear on scene, they bring comedy with them and impose themselves on the general tone of the narrative. As a writer and director, I really enjoy those kinds of incursions and it has taken me time to impose them in dramatic films, especially with Anglo-Saxon critics, less flexible when it comes to accepting a mix of genres, something as natural in life as it is in cinema. From when you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, you move through various, sometimes opposing, genres. Since the start of my career that is how I’ve understood cinematic narrative.
Within that constant mix that I have gradually distilled, over the past thirty years, the last pure comedy that I made would be Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: In Volver, The Flower of My Secret and All About My Mother there is a lot of humor but only on occasion or attached to one of the characters, as I have explained. In The Flower of My Secret, Chus Lampreave and Rossy de Palma are a comic duo, but the theme was the weakness of the writer Leo on her road to madness. Therefore, I’m So Excited! is the first comedy I’ve made since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, twenty-five years ago.
Aspects that I’ve kept very much in mind when making a comedy:
1. Rehearsal/Rhythm: Despite the spontaneity typical of the genre, the comedies I’ve made to date, and this one is no exception, are rehearsed exhaustively during pre-production and afterwards during shooting. Spontaneity is always the product of rehearsal.
I usually improvise a lot in rehearsals, then I rewrite the scenes and rehearse them again, and so on, to the point of obsession. With improvisations, the scenes usually become longer but it’s the best way I know to find nuances and parallel situations that I would never discover if I stuck rigidly to the text. After stretching them out and blowing them apart, I rewrite them again, trying to synthesize what has been improvised. And then we rehearse again. Some of the actors, especially Carlos Areces, who plays Fajas in the film, can’t bear you to cut a single one of their jokes. If it were up to him, the film would last three hours. Lola Dueñas is another one who immediately appropriates all the antics that occur to me during the first rehearsals. Afterwards it’s heart-rending to tell her that it was just a game, a way of stretching, being crazy, investigating, losing all sense of the ridiculous and above all losing respect for the text, that it was just a mere exercise. I admit that at times she’s managed to get her own way. When I had the idea for the mise-en-scène of the first time she goes into a trance in the cockpit, looking for sensations while groping the two pilots’ bodies, all those involved laughed, but I never thought about editing the scene like that. After insisting a lot, Lola asked me to at least look at how she did it and then decide, but I had to give her the chance to play it like that. She did it, and after seeing it, I had no option but to include it. Lola Dueñas is capable of breathing such truth into the most insane situations that she manages to make any craziness plausible.
2. Timing: Rapid-fire dialogue. Otherwise, even though the situations are funny, and the actors excellent and with resources, the film becomes long and so do the scenes. You just have to see the ones we like; most usually last between 75 and 90 minutes.
3. Light and artifice. The kind of comedy that inspired I’m So Excited! is stylistically very artificial, the lighting and the settings crackle with pastel colors, underscored by red, that deliberately avoid realism and naturalism. Humor shouldn’t worry about political correctness, in fact, just the opposite. Taboo and humor are two antagonistic concepts. Comedy of any kind allows you to tackle all subjects, even the most shocking. In 1940, the genius Charlie Chaplin dared to make the imminent Nazism the subject of a delicious comedy. I can’t think of a more terrifying subject than Nazism. Should Monty Python, Mae West or Saturday Night Live be politically correct? No.
I’m So Excited! is landing on the U.S. screens from June 28. I have to thank all the actors for their blind, total commitment. Now we just have to wait for someone to laugh, or smile, or leave the cinema in a better mood than when they entered. After all, that’s what comedy is, and it’s no small thing.