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

cast: Antonio Banderas, Assumpta Serna, Nacho Martinez, Eva Cobo, and Carmen Maura

director: Pedro Almodóvar

110 minutes (18) 1985
widescreen ratio 16:9
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Steve Aylett
Matador was the first movie in which Almodóvar's technical budget was equal to the look he wanted and it's gorgeous to look at. I like the colourful Almodóvar movies in which everything is high-resolution and women blaze like flowers out of the screen. Matador came along prior to the fluorescent decor that filled his films during the kitsch period of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown through to Kika, but it's an early flare of that colour. Assumpta Serna is the sort of physically perfect woman who would be boring if she were American, but is saved by not being afraid to crack her mask with expressiveness - her mouth is amazing. An intense passion develops between her lawyer character Maria and the retired matador, Diego (played like a wounded wolf by Nacho Martinez). They recognise each other as the same species - death obsessed killers - at one point simultaneously enraptured by the death/ love scene from Duel In The Sun. At one point Diego is hypnotised by the animal twitching of her long plait, which fills the screen. They are ultra-articulate lovers (this works well here and it's hard to do - see Catherine Breillat's Anatomy Of Hell for a less believable attempt).

A young Antonio Banderas appears as the hypersensitive matador student who wants to prove himself a tough guy by confessing to crimes of which he is innocent, but is really a sweetie. He is so weirdly psychic that he senses the circumstances of violent acts throughout the city, including those performed by Maria and Diego - he soon consciously helps his maestro Diego against the police. As usual there are similarities with other Almodóvar movies - Diego's home and grounds resemble those of another suavely reserved murderer in the later Kika - and the movie features Almodóvar alumni from past and future such as Carmen Maura, Veronica Forque and Bibi Andersen. The movie has a fair quota of humour, particularly in the fashion show scene, but its main flavour is that of passion. In the scenes between the lovers the screen is filled with rich reds, golds and yellows - the screen sometimes blushes out scarlet. I think the ending is intensely romantic.

Like the Flower Of My Secret DVD, there are not many extras on this disc. Critic Jose Arroyo explains in a short introduction that all the male characters in the film represent inverted versions of Spanish male stereotypes, which I didn't know. But we can see that they are all hobbled or held back in some way - which is why it's satisfying to see Diego come alive with Maria at the end, in orgasm and death.

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