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Yolanda sings in a seedy nightclub. When her boyfriend dies of an overdose, she fears the police and seeks refuge in a convent that saves women from the streets. These off-beat nuns include a heroin using abbess who loves Yolanda, one who writes romance novels under a pseudonym, another raising a tiger in the convent yard, and one who designs fabulous fashions and is in love with the local priest. They plan an evening extravaganza starring Yolanda to celebrate the abbess's birthday and to convince their wealthy patron not to abandon them. Written by
Alicia Hermida was offered the role of Sor Rata de Callejón, but her schedule didn't allowed her to do it. When Pedro Almodóvar knew this, he gave the part to Chus Lampreave, who previously had a smaller role. See more »
The "Salí porque salí" song is obviously not sung by Yolanda nor the backing vocalists. See more »
"Dark Habits" from 1983 was Pedro Almodovar's first film made with a decent producer, film company, and budget. There are signs of his later brilliance in films like "Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and "All About My Mother," but even for the quirky Almodovar, this is one strange film.
"Sister Act" is vaguely reminiscent of this movie, only in the fact that "Dark Habits" concerns Yolanda, a nightclub performer (Cristina Sánchez Pascual) whose boyfriend (Will More) overdoses while she's in his apartment. Yolanda panics, afraid she will be accused of killing him by the police, so, wearing her red sequined gown, she hides out in a Madrid convent.
This is unlike any convent depicted before or since. Some of the nuns, like Yolanda herself, are drug addicts, doing heroin and coke. One nun has a pet tiger. Another writes sexy novels under a pseudonym. Another nun designs fashions and is in love with the local priest. The Mother Superior is a lesbian and falls in love with Yolanda. The nuns all have strange names, depicting that man is the lowest form of animal: Sister Snake, Sister Rat, etc.
The big problem at the convent at the moment is that the Marquesa (Mary Carillo), now that her generous husband is dead, has decided to withdraw patronage from the convent. One of the nuns gets information about the Marquesa's daughter and decides to blackmail her with it.
"Dark Habits," I believe, suggests the Movida Madrilenia, a hedonistic countercultural movement that took place in Madrid after the death of Franco. It was meant to represent a new Spanish identity, an identity characterized by freedom of expression, use of recreational drugs, and even a new dialect. It was a hedonistic culture that more or less destroyed itself by the overuse of heroin. At the end of the era, Madrid was left with drug addicts, dead junkies, people leaving Madrid for their original hometowns, and for others, rehabilitation and a useful life.
The convent serves as a microcosm of this movement. Here one sees art, drugs, music, and homosexuality.
A fascinating if sometimes uncomfortable film, and certainly not representative of the later Almodovar, who himself has distanced himself from this offbeat, dark film.
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