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Pablo and Tina have complicated sexual lives. Pablo writes and directs plays and films; he's gay and deeply in love with Juan, a young man who won't reply to Pablo's affection or letters. Pablo's sibling Tina is a transsexual, angry at men, raising Ada, and trying to make it as an actress. Pablo takes up with Antonio, a youth who becomes jealous of Pablo's love for Juan. Antonio seeks out Juan, and violence leads to Pablo's grief and a temporary loss of memory. When memory returns, he learns that Antonio has taken up with Tina. In horror, he hurries to Tina's rescue and must face Antonio and his desire. Written by
It could be a perfect double bill with Almodovar's own BAD EDUCATION (2004, 8/10), LAW OF DESIRE is his seventh feature film and has a plucky vein of a forthright attitude towards homosexuality and challenges an unconventional yarn of a besotted maniac-suitor's (Banderas) incorrigible fixation of our protagonist, a successful film director Pablo (Poncela), that kind of creepy yet deeply-devoting ardor could instantaneously scare away the recipient and devour one's own, but not like other similar-themed films tackles on a thriller angle, this film has (unexpectedly) romanticized the purified affection as a rarefied empathy, and succumbs to its self-immolated culmination out of the left field.
Meanwhile, the film also painstakingly limns the life of Pablo's sister Tina (Maura), a ham actress, whose outré past will be divulged later in the film to a shocking value with comical casualness thanks to an amnesiac twist, and she carries a paralleled weight which includes a maternal bond with her niece Ada (Velasco).
From what one may expect from Almodovar, the film is less tawdry or garish with its color element, still an over-par indulgence though, LAW OF DESIRE is cluttered with saccharine love letters, explicit homo-erotic scenes, tackling with touchy issues like possessiveness, promiscuity, incest, transsexual, drug abuse and a murder case, with innuendos about priesthood sex scandal, also interpolating a monologue play about a distressed woman named Laura P (starts and ends with a melancholic delivery of "NE ME QUITTE PAS"). It is a fairly self-boosting piece of work, Almodovar always know how to infuse comedic occurrence into his well-drafted plot, even against a harrowing backbone.
As Almodovar's early muse, Maura owns her dominance of the film, the water-spurting on a hot summer night, the rendition of Laura P, the anger and indignity of exposing her veiled past and a face-to-face confession, magnificently dazzling and plain impressive. His male muse, Banderas, has a strapping figure and oozes all the fervor for the man of his life, gritty and arresting. By comparison, leading man Poncela may recede under the guise of a so-so performance, his dearth of personal charisma might not live up to sustain the story in a plausible manner, but his queer bearing is well-presented here. As usual, there are distinctive side characters galore, Velasco proves herself as a blossoming talent and Bibiana Fernández has a short but intensive spell as her negligent mother.
Speaking for myself, Almodovor's canon is always a safe haven, and this one has all his trappings all over the place, and it is male-centered, more self-referential in a way, supposedly more intriguing on this ground.
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