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Kika, a young cosmetologist, is called to the mansion of Nicolas, an American writer to make-up the corpse of his stepson, Ramon. Ramon, who is not dead, is revived by Kika's attentions and she then moves in with him. They might live happily ever after but first they have to cope with Kika's affair with Nicolas, the suspicious death of Ramon's mother and the intrusive gaze of tabloid-TV star and Ramon's ex-psychologist Andrea Scarface. Written by
Erik Gregersen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Somewhat muddled and clearly self-indulgent, but still interesting enough to justify the experience
Almodóvar does Fellini? Well, that seems to be the general tone of the film here, as the director takes a central caricature and drops them into a mocking satire of grotesque farce, frightening colours and the continual abstractions of 1950's melodrama, all the while revelling in the juxtaposition of highbrow movie references and lowbrow humour. Understandably, with such a giddy concoction of ideas, the film is something of a mess; with the collage of styles and somewhat awkward combination of film references combined with the over-the-top production design and characterisations of the director bombarding us from the first scene to the last, while some of the more outré moments of satire, including the (intentionally) morally bankrupt nature of the character "Scarface" and the near-infamous rape sequence that plays out in the same frivolous, high-camp approach as the rest of the film are sure to raise a few groans of disagreement from many of the less liberal of reviewers amongst us.
Having said that, I personally feel that despite its position in Almodóvar's career as something of a creative misstep, there are still some incredibly intelligent and highly interesting ideas at work behind the film, some of which we have to really search for amidst the camp theatricality of the characters and the screaming kitsch of the narrative and its overall design. It has certain similarities to Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960), with the comment on journalism and the depiction of the media against an episodic background that seems to go nowhere until the last twenty minutes of the film, at which point Almodóvar introduces a new strand to the drama that will probably make it necessary for a second or perhaps even third viewing to fully comprehend. It also has the same interesting concept of the writer creating the story as it unfolds that we previously saw in the excellent Law of Desire (1987), with the character played by Peter Coyote writing a crime book that might be a veiled comment on his own character and role within the film, or might be the plot of the film itself. However, unlike Law of Desire, the idea isn't carried off quite so well, with the notion eventually being pushed into the background as we focus more on "Scarface" and her trash TV empire that forces itself into the lives of the characters, creating an interesting comment on the idea of cinema as voyeurism previously foreshadowed in the "keyhole" iconography of the opening sequences, and the thread of exhibitionism that is cemented by the film's male lead, the photographer Rámon.
Throughout the film these themes jostle for our attention as we watch the drama unfold from an affluent apartment building overlooking an obviously artificial recreation of night-time Madrid, as the characters seem to just drift from one scenario to the next in a way that doesn't always make sense until pondered over in light of the film's somewhat enticing "twist" ending. Ultimately, you could argue that with Kika (1993), Almodóvar really bit off more than he could chew, as he takes full advantage of the larger dramatic canvas offered to him by the international success of Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) to truly indulge his interests in farce, design, fashion and theatrics. It's a self-indulgent work, without question, but I feel for an artist of Almodóvar's calibre, such indulgences are excusable; especially when the purging of such indulgences eventually leads to work of the impeccably high-standard of Live Flesh (1997) and All About My Mother (1999). The film is also a triumph of perfect casting, though one does wonder why Coyote - with his voiced awkwardly dubbed into Spanish - is present over a greater actor like Eusebio Poncela, who in my mind would have been perfect for the part?
Other than that rather odd choice, we have the film tied rigidly to the underrated performance of Veronica Forqué, who manages to convey the moves from comedy to tragedy without compromising the colourful tone or her somewhat ditzy characterisation. Her performance is really a marvel in my opinion and definitely makes Kika worth experiencing, even in spite of its various limitations. There's also fine support from Victoria Abril, Alex Casanovas and the truly iconic Rossy de Palma (once seen, never forgotten). Certainly, I can understand why many wouldn't like this film, what with the provocative nature of the tone, the lapses in character and the occasional slow pace, but there are still some interesting touches that should make this required viewing for anyone already familiar with the director and his work. As with the other Almodóvar films that I've seen from this era, Kika is bright and vibrant and filled with moments of keenly observed character-play and fanciful farce against an approach to film-making that rivals the very best of contemporary European cinema.
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