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The upset love of Pedro Almodóvar and Spain

Antonio Banderas is starring in Pedro Almodovar's new film "Dolor y Gloria".
Antonio Banderas is starring in Pedro Almodovar's new film "Dolor y Gloria". EL DESEO D.A.S.L.U. / MANOLO PAVÓN

Since Volver in 2006 Pedro Almodóvar had no more critical and public success in Spain. His 21e feature film Dolor y Gloria ("Pain and glory", which could be presented in Cannes), was released on the Spanish screens on March 22. On the bill, two of his favorite actors: Antonio Banderas, first, who doubles as the filmmaker, an aging director who remembers his childhood in a poor village of Valencia, his first love for a man in the Madrid of the movida, the pain of rupture, the therapy by writing and the importance of cinema to fill the voids left by life.


Then, Penélope Cruz, who interprets her mother during the period of her youth. The film made a flying start, rising during the first weekend of operation at the top of the box office with 180,000 spectators, dethroning the American behemoth Captain Marvel. "This success is comforting, says the producer of the film, Esther García. They are like reunions. "

Will the film allow the most famous Spanish filmmakers to come to terms with his compatriots? Indeed, the relationship of the director with the public of his country has not always been simple. And he has often consoled himself in France, where he feels most loved and esteemed. And or "He has never lost the respect or admiration of the public," as Esther García points out. Witness the box office figures.

In 2016 Julieta was seen more during the first ten days in France than during all its exploitation in Spain. It is true that the release of the film had coincided with the appearance of its name in the "Panama Papers", because of a company briefly held in the British Virgin Islands, between 1991 and 1994. But before, The piel that habito, Broken embraces and Bad Education, had already been less successful in Spain than in France.

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"I do not think I do not like Spain. But it's true that elsewhere I get more prizes, " he said in 2016, taking the opportunity to tackle the Spanish Academy of Film Arts and Sciences.

"For some, Almodovar is unfriendly. For others, there is the idea that if a film is Spanish, it can not be so good … "A film critic

During his career, the filmmaker received only three Goyas for best film, for Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown in 1989 All about my mother in 2000 and Volver in 2007, and two as best director, for these last two. Less than his compatriots, younger and more commercial success, Alejandro Amenábar or Juan Antonio Bayona. In France, in 1993, he received the César for best foreign film for High heels, while in Spain he was not named in any of the main categories.

In 2003, for Speak with her, the injustice was even more blatant: Pedro Almodóvar did not receive any Goya, while in the United States he won the Oscar for best screenplay and the Golden Globe for best foreign film, and in France the César for best film of the European Union, among other international awards.

And this, while other Spanish directors who triumph struggling to export their works. It must be said that the Spaniards are fond of comedy with very local humor, a genre difficult to sell abroad. "And that our cinema suffers from an inferiority complex, adds Esther García. The films of Javier Rebollo, What I know about Lola and The woman without piano, internationally acclaimed, have hardly been noticed in Spanish cinemas … "

"Lack of generosity"

Another surprising example: the actor Javier Bardem, adulated on the international scene, is also not a consensual star in Spain. Perhaps because he is considered, like Pedro Almodóvar, too politically engaged on the left in a country that often remains divided between "Rojos" and "Azules" descendants of republicans and heirs of Francoism.

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"Despite the good reception of Dolor y Gloria, the Spanish spectators are divided on Almodóvar, as if there was a lack of generosity to celebrate the successes of compatriots, stresses the film criticEl País Jordi Costa. For some, it is unfriendly. For others, there is the idea that if a film is Spanish, it can not be so good … "

The film critic Juan Sanguino, of Vanity Fair España, is surprised on Twitter that a "Part of the Spanish society rejects the film Almodóvar en bloc, while it is one of the best painters of the Spanish character". Before concluding : "Maybe that's why …"

Sandrine Morel (Madrid, correspondence)

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