Dark Habits (1983)
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The film is less neatly constructed than Almodovar's later works, and one might say the ending is somewhat messy. Still, it's interesting to compare it to his incredibly polished work of the last ten years. While the uninitiated (to Almodovar) may find parts of it a little shocking, it's not nearly as raw as it would be if it were made today--certainly the lesbianism is tame by today's standard.
Other reviewers are right that a lot of the English subtitles miss the ironic tone in the script. But don't let that stop you . . . It's Almodovar! Even second tier Almodovar with inadequate subtitling is better than 99 percent of everything else!
It's sure as hell not sentimental; it's a black comedy - you've got parody, satire and a dark-humour rolled into one.
There already signs of Almodóvar's skill at film-making, already touches of Almodóvar's trademark whit and humour. It starts out with a girl at a crossroads in her life: on the one hand, a drug fuelled crazy future the other, the stability of a convent. Or is that the other way round? For those familiar with Almodóvar's films, there are some of the reoccurring themes you'd expect to find, amongst others: prostitution, nuns, drugs, and dealers. More specifically, Dark Habits seems to deal with (to me anyway) a novelist (Almodóvar's film's often touch on creativity/ those involved), the idea of what is good, and along a similar vain, our abilities to turn a new leaf.
Obviously being in subtitles is going to exclude this for some, but others are whole-heartedly recommended; even if it isn't the best Almodóvar film, I've found it the most enjoyable so far. (I haven't heard a quote better than "I'm Sister Rat of the Sewers. I was keen to meet you" recently.)
Oh, and look out for the tiger ;-)
"Dark Habits" is so parochial, so banal, that changes completely the message of this movie.
I just saw it today, out of nostalgia, since I own a copy, but very seldom I see a movie more than once.
Throughout the years I've seen this one three times! Every time it excels the last view. It isn't the best Almodovar. At the time he didn't have the money (and therefore the incredible terseness of his more recent filmography) nor the experience to make a work of art of every single frame, as he has accustomed us during the last several years. But this films grabs you from the very beginning with such guts that it's impossible to point out its formula.
It's simply magic.
Cristina Sánchez Pascual is not Greta Garbo, but again, like the movie itself, she has "something" in her personality that mesmerizes you whenever she's on the screen.
The way Chus Lampreave ("Sor Rata de Callejón" or "Sister Rat of the Back Alley") delivers her lines is comparable to the way Carol Channing or Eartha Kitt used to delivered theirs: Sheer pleasure to the ears and the brain.
I don't know how it could sound to somebody that needs to read the translation, but for a Spanish speaking person this woman is unique. She could read the telephone book and make it irresistibly funny.
The character of the Marquess (Mary Carrillo) is Almodovar 100%, when she comments to the Abbess Julia: "I'm a cosmetician", "¿Really?", "Of course, see my face?" and she shows an incredibly clownish face that only an inebriated cosmetician would have done.
And the Bolero that Lucho Gatica sings --"Encadenados" "Chained Together"-- is simply so gorgeous that one could melt on the spot out of utter delight, I swear. (I have to find it on "You Tube"!!).
This movie doesn't deserve 8 points, I simply gave it 8 points in my vote because of its masterly ways to grab one's imagination with not too many resources. I adore this movie. It's imperfect, the photography is not very good, the acting leaves a lot to be desired, the sets are in general quite poor..., the script...MMM-mmm, but the movie is sublime!!
"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.
When a prostitute has to escape after her lover dies from an overdose she provided to him, she naturally goes to this cloister. Why not? She fits right in with dope users, heroin addicts, obsessive-compulsives, and cheap fiction writers.
Only, I remember laughing during Sister Act. There just wasn't that much that was funny here, and there was only one musical number. There wasn't even a sex scene!
It was strange, and only recommended to those who really appreciate Almodovar and want to see all his films.
They plan an evening extravaganza starring Yolanda to celebrate the abbess's birthday and to convince their wealthy patron not to abandon them.
Very slow moving movie with subtitles.
This movie is great fun, deadpan, outrageously irreverent but never mean-spirited, affectionate, hilarious but in a subtly low-key way, wildly imaginative and yet gentle and sweet. I loved it. Julieta Serrano as the Mother Superior and Chus Lampreave (who has a larger role than in his later movies) as Sister Alley Rat are especially delightful.