Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dark Habits

1983, Spain, directed by Pedro Almodóvar (original title: Entre tinieblas)

There's a scattershot quality to Dark Habits that is characteristic of Pedro Almodóvar's early films, his targets wide and his satire broad, and his plotting somewhat haphazard. However, his sense of the absurd and his unapologetic demolition of sacred cows are infectious for most of the film's running length, while the film jumps so quickly from one scene to the next that there's little time to reflect on the lack of connective tissue. There's also a powerful sense that the director is simply celebrating the freedom that came after the death of Franco; although that event was eight years in the past when Dark Habits was made, there's no doubt that his legacy continued to cast a long shadow.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a young woman who takes refuge in a convent after the death of her boyfriend from a drug overdose - only to discover that the nuns are participating in far more illicit activities than the average citizen on the outside. Almodóvar revels in taking the church down a peg or twenty, but also argues in favour of a benevolent God, who finds greatness in the imperfections and human failings celebrated by the director. He also celebrates a wonderful collection of actresses, perhaps most especially Chus Lampreave and Carmen Maura as two of the more eccentric inhabitants of the convent.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States