The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot this week celebrates the collaborations between director Pedro Almodóvar and actor Antonio Banderas, offering participants the choice between 1986’s Matador,1987’s The Law of Desire, or both. I’d seen neither of these films before, and was delighted to have an excuse, but unfortunately, time constraints meant that I had to choose, and ended up going with the latter on the grounds that I’ve heard better things – though is there such a thing as an Almodóvar film that’s even a little bit a waste of time?
Certainly not this one, though I will say nothing of the plot but what I must to contextualise my choice for best shot; we’ll leave it at “gay erotic thriller that’s also one of the filmmaker’s most nuanced, if fucked-up, character studies”. More to the point, it’s a flat-out masterpiece, and you should see it.
As for the shot: since the point of today’s episode was to celebrate the collaboration between director and actor, I felt the right thing to do was to select a frame with Banderas in it; since the first thing that always pops to mind when I hear “Almodóvar” is a certain bold use of candy-colored sets and costumes, it was pretty much certain that my choice was going to involve that, if just by accident.
Banderas’s character, Antonio Benítez, has just been picked up by the protagonist, director Pablo Quintero (Eusebio Poncela). Before long, Antonio will reveal himself as a sexually obsessive psychopath, but even before that happened, this shot, with its leading contrast between all that red and Antonio’s green shirt, rang every alarm in my brain: “This guy is bad news”. It’s not the first, but maybe my favorite example of the film’s complex and deeply satisfying use of color as a signifier of tone, character, and plot; besides, I’m a sucker for good foreshadowing (I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide what, if anything, we shall make of the contrast between left and right, red/lust versus white/purity). And my lord, does any director do wide shots quite as joyfully expressive as Almodóvar?
Case in point: this isn’t my favorite shot (no bright colors!), but I couldn’t help including it for the sake of its exquisite composition. God, I love this man’s movies.