Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

1990, Movie, NR, 101 mins


This outrageous title is a little deceiving, especially for a film from Spain's most controversial export, Pedro Almodovar. The director's usual campy, boisterous hilarity has been replaced in TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! by anguished--albeit offbeat--romantic heterosexual yearning.

Ricky (Antonio Banderas) is released from a mental institution with one burning ambition. On a previous escape from the hospital, he met and made love to Marina (Victoria Abril), a junkie and former porn star. Obsessed by the memory of her, he determines to seek her out again and win her love. He finds her on the set of a legitimate film, working under the direction of the aged Maximo Espejo (Francisco Rabal), who is also obsessed with her. Marina has no recollection of Ricky when she sees him, but he trails her home and kidnaps her. Tying her up in her own apartment, he makes her a captive audience for his desperate romantic overtures. She is at first fiercely resistant to him, but gradually succumbs, especially when he returns to her bruised and bloodied after an attempt to score drugs for her. Eventually, Marina's sister, Lola (Loles Leon), comes to the rescue, but by that time, Marina's fate is (happily) sealed.

The shock effects of Almodovar's earlier work were considerably diluted in his Lubitschian crazy-love roundelay, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, and TIE ME UP!, despite its bondage theme and lightly sadomasochistic overtones, makes a similar attempt to enter the mainstream. The film recalls Hitchcock's THE 39 STEPS, with its bickering handcuffed lovers, as well as the sweeping romantic intensity of Douglas Sirk's 1950s trash-fests. Ennio Morricone's ubiquitous music contributes to this attempt to explore the traditions of classic cinema, but it lacks the savvy, finger-popping verve of the more street-smart scores of other Almodovar films. The screenplay lacks the frantic multitude of characters that have typified Almodovar's work, and the non-sequiturs and comic asides we have come to expect are also kept to a minimum. Staying with TIE ME UP! demands some patience, but the director's timing never fails him, and he brings things to a close on an upbeat note. leave a comment

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