The Flower of My Secret

on March 08, 1996 by Alex Albanese
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   Spain's Pedro Almodovar is one of contemporary films' superior stylists. Along with much of mod bohemia, he's consumed with pop kitsch--but his strong visual sense consistently elevates his efforts to the realm of inspired art. Thematically, too, he works near the same level as his peers, but the results often far surpass the hipster status quo. His specialty--slightly skewed cultural/sexual farces--are not only campy filmmaking but also some of the wittiest adult satires being made today.
   Like his 1988 film, Almodovar's latest is the story of a woman whose convoluted life places her on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Leo (Marisa Paredes) is a fortyish author of potboiler romances who tosses her more heartfelt writings in the trash. But Leo's mainstay product is suffering because her marriage is falling apart, so Angel (Juan Echanove), a highbrow literary editor who loves her books, secretly takes on her non de plume to get things back up to snuff. Meanwhile, Leo's housekeeper's son (Joaquin Cortes) has been retrieving Leo's other writings from the trash and selling them as his in order to finance his dream: to dance the flamenco on stage with his mother. As usual, the goings-on are fraught with sexual tension and bizarre complications. Ultimately about having the confidence to pursue the art that is one's true desire, "The Flower of My Secret" is a return to form for Almodovar after his unfocused "Kika." As if to compensate for the failure of his previous film, he's somewhat toned down his trademark visuals and concentrated on the hilarious and loopy story structure--which seems to go in a dozen directions at once but ties up in the final reel into a tight, cohesive and enjoyable whole.    Starring Marisa Paredes and Juan Echanove. Directed and written by Pedro Almodovar. Produced by Augustin Almodovar. A Sony Classics release. Comedy. Spanish-language; subtitled. Rated R for language and brief sexuality. Running time: 100 min.
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