As much as audiences in his home country and movie critics around the country may love him, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar does not make films that lend themselves to mass consumption.
True, Almodovar has achieved mainstream acceptance outside of his home country, chiefly with the Oscar-winning drama "Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother)." But most of his cinematic output is often so off-beat both in tone and subject matter that they could also be called off-putting.
Take his latest, "Hable con Ella (Talk to Her)." This drama is filled with such touchy subject matter as infidelity, obsessional love and rape. Yet, as downright peculiar and possibly offensive as it is at times, the film is truly unique, a refreshing original.
It also features one of the most singularly touching film endings in recent memory. (The conclusion alone is reason enough to see the movie, at least for those with an extremely open mind).
"Hable con Ella (Talk to Her)" takes its title literally. It examines the relationship between two men who are facing the same dilemma the women they love are both in what appear to be irreversible comas.
First there's Benigno (Javier Camara), a male nurse at a clinic that specializes in the treatment and care of coma patients. He's completely devoted to Alicia (Leonor Watling), a once-promising ballerina who's remained motionless years after an auto accident. He remains confident that she will one day awaken and that she will return his love.
Then there's Marco (Dario Grandinetti), a fortysomething journalist and writer of travel guides, who pines for his girlfriend Lydia (Rosario Flores), a female bullfighter gored in the ring.
Having this in common, Benigno and Marco become friends. And Benigno offers a valuable piece of advice to Marco that he should "communicate" with his lover, by any means necessary.
As you might expect, Almodovar attacks this material with true originality. In particular, there's an odd fantasy sequence that serves as a metaphor for one of the more distasteful plot twists.
The cast members seem to relish the chance to stretch their acting "muscles," especially Spanish TV actor Camara, whose performance as Benigno could have easily become bad camp. And Grandinetti really sells their unique friendship.
"Hable con Ella (Talk to Her)" is rated R for full female and partial male nudity, scattered use of strong sex-related profanity, violence (a bullfight, shown graphically), frank sexual talk and some off-color sexual humor, simulated sexual contact, gore and brief drug content (prescription drug abuse). Running time: 112 minutes.