But like Woody Allen or the Coens, he has consistently worked for so long on the same motifs that coming to him is also a matter of is he particularly inspired that day. I'm pleased to say he is.
In the individual pieces of cinematic craft, this is not particularly exceptional. If you're heavily inclined to how story resolves drama, you will see here something that simply trails off near the end. The symbolic motifs greet us upfront; a deer in slow-motion, tumultuous sea out the window. His bright reds on walls and the like are not something I can get excited about, in this or any film.
But he is inspired today on the fundamental matter of self passing through self. He manages to do this with just a few strands of narrative. There is the young woman who was on her way to all life ahead of her that night on the train, who finds herself yanked by unexpected passion. There is the house of passion in the small fishing village, eerily explored with Hitchcock hues. And there is bewildering loss as she wanders away a widowed mother.
Above all I love here the sense of transition. Almodovar does so well - his actress helps - in spinning narrative to explore tragedy. He says enough about the jittery urge for adventure as a story we throw ourselves in so that we can infer more fleeting illusion around the crushing melodrama about life breaking down. She's not just this grieving woman that another film, say, in the realist format would have simply followed around Madrid; we're privy to all this richness of her young self having set off in search. Things couldn't have only worked this way for her, it's important to see; but sometimes they do, sometimes setting out for open sea means finding yourself marooned on an island, nothing right or wrong.
And Almodovar is ineluctably Spanish, meaning Catholic; so communion with the fleeting, transcendent stuff must take place firmly within ritual, in his case (just like Ruiz before) fiction. The whole is narrated by an author writing the story down as she waits in her apartment, shifting us forward and back. It speaks about the imaginative mind being burdened by the narratives of memory. For Almodovar, there is merit in the effort. Had she not stayed behind to write, she would have missed the letter. Even more pertinently for me, there is a bedridden mother (a mirrored woman) who is allowed to languish in her room, written off as an invalid. But when her daughter comes to visit, the recognition nourishes her back to her feet.