I’m So Excited – Pedro Almodóvar and his joyous message to the people of Spain. (Film Review)

I read somewhere (I really wish I could remember where) that BDSM increased dramatically in Australia when we had a right-wing government. It’s been six years, and we have now re-elected an even more conservative version of that right-wing government, moving Australia into the more extreme version of all that “right-wing” embodies these days, which is far more than it ever did before in our rapid forward momentum toward a pure capitalism. It is one of the few comforts I extract from conservative government (Our new Prime Minister has just removed all but one female from government!  It reminds me of a call for equal taxation for equal representation, but I can’t see that call flying) that at least an increase in Catholicism equates to an increase in Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism.  It’s a feeling I seem to share with the great Pedro Almodovar, whose response to an increase in conservative politics in Spain is the marvelous film, I’m So Excited.

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I’m so Excited reminds me in many ways of the Czech New Wave cinema, in that absurdity is the only palpable response to contemporary right-wing politics (totalitarianism of a different style in Czechoslovakia in the 1960’s).  Political extremism has always called forth the very best in artistic achievement, despite our new Prime Ministers promise to cut funding to the arts, so I look forward to the burst of creativity in Australia. But I’m So Excited did give me cause to pause and think about the role of art, and film in contemporary culture. Almodovar made I’m So Excited, primarily because he wanted to make a comedy after the seriousness of Broken Embraces and The Skin I live In, but he has stated that he also wanted to give the people of Spain a bit of fun because their life has become so hard. Almodovar thinks Spain is going through their worst period since Democracy began (they have their own extreme right-wing government to deal with, along with the Euro econo crises etc) and his response is to provide Spain with a campy laugh. Mariano Rajoy (Spain’s current Prime Minister) is openly opposed to the legislation that gave couples of the same sex the right to marriage in 2005 making Spain only the third country in the world after Belgium and The Netherlands to legally allow same sex marriage (Australia would have been able to vote on this had we elected someone different).  He tried to have it repealed through the Constitutional court (despite the countries 66% support for the rights) almost as soon as he was elected in November 2011, but was unsuccessful.

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And now, in March 2013, Pedro Almodovar, the greatest living director in Spain by commercial (and many other) standards has brought out a film that encourages joy and most of all, sexual liberation among the people of Spain. To be brutally honest, it’s the kind of film that must piss Mariano Rajoy off, because it not only openly and freely stars homosexual males behaving in VERY gay-ways, but it also discusses and openly supports bi-sexuality and alternate marriage arrangements. I felt envious while watching I’m So Excited that we don’t have the equivalent of that sort of film director in Australia, using such material to openly provoke and irritate our new Prime Minister. Of course the answer to that one, is make your own film. But still, I did have a moment of envy of Spain.

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I’m So Excited really needs to be seen in its social context to be fully appreciated. Outside of the understanding of what is happening in Spain at the moment, the film seems overtly campy without saying much, strangely obliquely political, but slightly missing the mark some how.  But this is a film made specifically for the people of Spain in today’s sociopolitical climate, and so to remove it from that context is pointless and diminishes the role and importance of art within its context. If you imagine Marioano Rajoy watching the film, it opens up in a way that is not easily available to non-Spaniards. There are some stunning moments – The entire economy class being drugged “for their own good”, A chorus of gay stewards performing an “I’m so Excited” musical number in order to numb the business class passengers pain as they approach a certain crash, the stewards going on to intoxicate and drug business class with Valencian cocktails so that everyone is aroused and fucking when the crises of their damaged landing is upon them, the plane flies around and around in circles while they wait for permission to crash somewhere, the dominatrix has connections with Opes Dei and so on and so on.  The connections are endless, even to the point where several of the stewards reminded me (in looks) of Mariano Rajoy – not that I am suggesting that is intentional and nor am I willing to offend Almodovar’s cast. (!)

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Outside of the immediate context of Spain and its struggles, I’m So Excited deals, all be it lightly, with other more universal issues, such as bi-sexuality and a nostalgic look at the 1980’s.  In many ways the film is a homage to the 80’s (and since reading more I have found that Almodovar did this intentionally) when people were more liberated and generally freer than they are today. Make no mistake, Capitalism has made conservatives of the most radical of us these days, and Almodovar wants us to remember the 80’s and the sheer joy of experience back then. Today, if you mention your own bi-sexual experimentation, you are usually met with an eye-roll and a “I went through that too” sort of response, rather than an affirmation of the simple pleasure sexual experimentation can provide.  The 70’s were like this too, although Almodovar’s age connects him with the 80’s, but the “rights” fought for in the 1960’s really came into their own in the 1970’s when they hit suburbia. Once its at the local BBQ, you know it has infiltrated the populace.

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For me, I’m so Excited is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but that is when I place it in context, which I think is essential. Think of the excitement and joy life can be, if what is showing at our local cinema is films made in an alternate view of our own image, and ideas that directly oppose political prevalence. I’m So Excited brings us back to what film making (and art in general) is all about: local questions that have universal themes. It is the artists connection with their country that brings art alive and their ability to provide commentary. I’m So Excited reminds us who we are and why we are here.

Oh, and PS – It’s disturbingly arousing also…

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