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The Flower Of My Secret is available - with The Law Of Desire, Kika, and Matador - in DVD boxset 'Almodóvar - The Collection, volume 2'.

The Flower Of My Secret
cast: Marisa Paredes, Juan Echanove, Carmen Elias, Rossy de Palma, and Chus Lampreave

director: Pedro Almodóvar

103 minutes (18) 1995 widescreen ratio 16:9
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Steve Aylett
Pedro Almodóvar's movies overlap and repeat many of the same elements (murders, writers, news reports, mothers, grandmothers, female lawyers, balcony gardens, briskly obtuse policemen and the phrase "I feel as though you're avoiding me.") But, as with the books of Jack Vance, if you're a fan you'll buy in for more of the same flavour. In The Flower Of My Secret (aka: La Flor de mi secreto), Almodóvar goes a step further by repeating almost a whole scene from All About My Mother, but it works.

The movie stars Marisa Paredes at her most brittle as Leo, a writer who is alone and disconnected, pathetically in love with someone who is entirely absent. The colour palette is toned down, slightly faded and cold (by Almodóvar's standards), like a false autumn. Leo wears colours that are drained out, while her maid, a semi-retired flamenco dancer, wears blood red under her apron. Leo's clothes colour up when she's feeling more hopeful or gutsy, but Almodóvar still frequently puts Paredes into slightly soft-focus - she appears that way even when in the frame with other characters that are pin-sharp. She radiates a powdery, rather cosmetic depression - her feeling don't come across with much intensity, partly because her world is so perfectly framed/ composed (the difficulty of feeling sorry for someone in such comfortable circumstances - oh, poor million-selling author with a second country villa!) and partly because it's hard to understand her love for her husband Paco, who we only ever see as abrupt and withholding.

We can feel Leo's loneliness, however. Once again, Almodóvar uses a traditional Spanish love/ pain/ tragic resolve song to reflect the main character's feelings - Leo hears such a song in a cafe and cries. (Translators often include subtitles for the opening and closing credits music of Almodóvar's movies - the songs are chosen for a reason.) Presenting the notion of an alternative is newspaper editor Angel. Is he a grown-up version of Angel in Matador? If so he's become a bit dull. I didn't find the Leo/ Angel relationship very compelling, but it is supposed to be about acceptance and comfort, which is good enough. (In his introduction on the DVD, Jose Arroyo claims that the Angel character is gay, which doesn't make sense to me.)

After Leo finally recognises that her relationship with Paco is ended, she remains fragile but there is more flow and movement. We can feel her healing a little in her mother's country village. We are treated to a passionate flamenco dance (made strange in that it's performed by Leo's maid Blanca and Blanca's son). Leo finally accepts the companionship, comfort and possibility of a future represented by Angel. I like the Almodóvar movies that many people would call kitsch, where the colours bleed off the screen and Spanish passion is in full flow. The Flower Of My Secret, however, is a middle-aged film in pastel colours.

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