Pedro Almodovar declares OTT the “antidote” to lockdown

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The Oscar-winning filmmaker spoke at a press conference in Venice, where he is screening his first English-language short, The Human Voice. 30-minute film artist Tilda Swinton, who attended the ceremony along with the director and his brother and producer Agustin Almodovar.

Speaking about how viewers turned to streaming platforms during the epidemic, Almodovar said: “The lockdown has forced us all to stay at home. It has proved the extent to which we all depend on fiction. Fiction has been a good way to fill our time. Culture is absolutely necessary.”

However, the Spanish autoria issued a note of caution about the trend and the essential nature of cinema. “There is also another result, negative and reason for concern, because lockdown has shown us our homes as places where we are imprisoned,” he said. “I would oppose this forced seclusion with something else. The antidote is the cinema, the opposite of all of this. Going to the cinema is an adventure.”

“We have to regain and find the life that is in the street. The Greeks talk of catharsis. You find yourselves crying or laughing with other people. As a director, I would tell you that is very important.”

The director of Dard Aur Mahima, Wolver and Talk to Har also voiced their opposition to the live streaming release. If I put my film on a platform like Netflix, I somehow lose that contact with my audience,” he said. “Some things will only be discovered on the big screen, in the dark, with people we do not know.”

Discussing his latest project, Almodovar said he was starting “a new cycle” in his life and work, with an emphasis on lean narratives and “lesser elements”.

“From Julieta on, there is a change in my work and cinematography,” he said.

Human Voice is part of that ongoing cycle and had a script that Almodovar wrote in Spanish before being translated into English.

“If there were some expressions that could be changed, I gave [Swinton] full freedom to change the wording, [to use] expressions she found more suitable”.

“At the beginning, it was difficult working in a different language but as soon as the character became hers, it was brilliant, it was beautiful. I had never heard that musicality before.”

Almodovar has a number of shorts and feature projects including Pipeline, one of which is a “different kind of western”. Another is a dystopian drama called A Strange Form of Life. He is scheduled to go into pre-production of his next film in October.

Swinton’s “complexity”

Swinton, who received the Golden Lion title for lifetime achievement yesterday and a masterclass in Venice today, praised Almodovar for his work.

Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown was the first time I saw his spirit and I have been entirely besotted by his cinema ever since,” she said.

“I have a friend at home in the north of Scotland who is a Benedictine monk. I see him occasionally. I saw him about 12 years ago. He always says he is going to remember me in his prayers and one day he said to me, ‘I have a special prayer for you to work with Pedro Almodovar’.

“I thought it [the idea] was ridiculous. I am not Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish but as Pedro and I have discussed many times, there is a language of cinema which is a complicity between us. It is an incredibly proud moment for me to sit beside him.”