-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
Kika is available - with
The Law Of Desire,
The Flower Of My Secret, and
in DVD boxset 'Almodóvar - The Collection, volume 2'.
cast: Victoria Abril, Veronica Forque, Alex Casanovas, Rossy De Palma, and Peter Coyote
director: Pedro Almodóvar
107 minutes (18) 1994
widescreen ratio 16:9
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
How useful is this! Optimum World release 'Almodovar: The Collection Vol. 2', including
Matador, Kika, The Law Of Desire, and The Flower Of My Secret
under the prompt "four early films from the director." Point of fact, The
Flower Of My Secret is not that early, and where the collection really comes in handy
is that it means that four of Pedro Almodóvar's weakest films are clumped together
in the one boxset for you to avoid and leave any other collections in the series with a
better chance of coming out truly attractive and worth your money.
Kika is the last in these four for me to catch up with and Almodóvar saw
it as a return to comedy following his dramas Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, and High
Heels. The worlds of all three are similarly unbelievable, but Kika is a lot
less entertaining than his previously three films. Kika (exploiting her overbite, Veronica
Forque) is a makeup artist with a tongue that clacks on and on like a typewriter. She
recounts an earlier episode in her life as the lover of the cataleptic son Ramon (Alex
Casanova) of a renowned novelist, Nicholas, played by Peter Coyote, having been hired to
touch up the 'dead' young fellow's face for his funeral. Her maid, Juana (Rossy de Pama)
is the sister of a dangerous rapist who has escaped prison. She receives the fugitive in
her employer's apartment, on a promise that he doesn't touch Kika. The sister is quite
used to the abuse and a willing object to his lust. He breaks his promise and a 'hysterically
funny' rape ensues, filmed by a voyeur in the opposite building, who alerts the police.
The mystery voyeur is also witness to a woman's murder in the apartment above. Meanwhile,
television hostess Andrea Caracortado ('Andrea Scarface'), played by Victoria Abril, is
after revenge on old flame Coyote. She also receives the footage of the rape and has no
qualms about using it on her nightly shock news show, 'Today's Worst'. Caracortado reports
events in a one-woman-costume-come-camera unit, which looks like something out of a science
fiction film (designed as are other outrageous costumes in the film by Jean Paul Gaultier).
The film rounds off in the manor of the author as it is disclosed that the killing is not
a one-off and who the serial killer is.
Almodóvar has in Kika taken the option to offend lazily assuming that the
laughs will naturally come with it on the basis that he has the track record for it and
the 'new Spain' loves him. Heck knows where a director's reputation to understand women
comes from with just the one film like Kika in his canon. There are some smart twists
in the plot worthy of Agatha Christie had they only been implemented better. How clever is
it that the murder occurs in the flat of the man who is also the mystery voyeur from across
the way, for example! The film's best sequences are curiously all of those that represent
an alternate media format within that of the film itself. The television book interview
show with its sly autobiographic notes and some genuinely funny and amusingly delivered
dialogue is a highlight, as are the sequences in which Caracortada traipses a dark studio
in a fantastic bit of haute couture. Kika is too much the cartoon and the remaining
characters are nothing short of detestable. Neither is the film overly funny for what
Almodóvar as much anticipated, as he did understand to be a comedy. Only the occasional
line wins out and normally for no more than perfectly camp value. "I wore a sheep acrylic
orange coat and looked fantastic." The film is an uncomfortable and unsatisfying hodgepodge.
The stony Coyote is dubbed, though behind the scenes footage implies that this was not the
original intention, with the character, possibly delivering much of his dialogue in English.
Coyote's on-set English delivery might then again have been a way for Coyote to become
comfortable with the meaning of the dialogue on a set where many of the words are forged
from ad-libs. Almodóvar's relationship to his actors during the filming is interesting
and there is likely less downtime on an Almodóvar set for performers than on any other.
Equipment is still being set-up as the director inhabits every role himself, and badgers or
coaxes in order to instil the lines and actions in his players. One of my favourite Spanish
actors, Karra Elejalde, turns up as a detective, though it is as one half of the stereotypical
Almodóvar cop team that we have seen in Matador, The Law Of Desire and
Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, and offers the actor little to do. This is
a film that helped Elejalde onwards and upwards and the next six years saw him give some
incredible performances in some genuinely good films. Abril is also fabulous in her role,
deceitful and low as her character is. Abril can never do wrong. This film is depraved but
wretchedly so. Almodóvar is misbehaving horribly here and you really don't need to
bear witness to it.
DVD extras: cast and crew interviews, a trailer, and an 11-minute essay on Chavela Vargar,
a Spanish vocal legend whose song is mimed in a key scene.