means NEVER having
to say you're sorry for
the woman of your dreams.
Dir. Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Victoria Abril, Antonio Banderas,
Loles León, Francisco Rabal, Rossy De Palma
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Any romantic comedy involving a man kidnapping the woman of his dreams, tying her to a bed and keeping her captive until she falls in love with him is tops in my books. Such is the case with Pedro Almodóvar's bonafide 1989 classic Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! which stars the young and sexy Antonio Banderas as Ricky, a recent asylum outpatient who stalks Marina Osorio (played by an equally young and sexy Victoria Abril), a porn star he once had an evening of passionate, albeit anonymous sex with.
He follows her to the set of a soft-core pseudo-art film where she's doing leading lady duties for Máximo Espejo (the great Francisco Rabal), an old, paralyzed and recent stroke victim auteur who clearly has the hots for her - so much so he pathetically attempts to masturbate to her old porn films. Marina's sister Lola (Loles León) is ever-present as Máximo's right-hand, but seems to really be around to keep Marina out of trouble with her on-again-off-again drug addiction. As the movie wraps production, Marina checks out to prepare for the end-of-shoot party later that evening and this is Ricky's chance to enact his mad plan. And so, he does what any man would do - at least any man in an Almodóvar film - he kidnaps her, believing that once she gets to know him, she'll not only fall madly in love, but will marry and have his babies.
Much of the film works as a two-hander exploring their strange relationship which grows to a point where Marina even assists and insists upon being bound when Ricky needs to go off to run errands. Some of his errands do enable her need for drugs, but he's a brave and caring enabler and suffers a beating from some dealers after he rips off their stash. Though one could, I suppose, chalk up their growing love as being rooted in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, Almodóvar is far more interested in glorious laughs, sex and fun. It's his very audacity that allows us to believe in their love and hope that they're going to make it as a couple destined to a life of matrimonial bliss. While the film is sprinkled with more than its fair share of satirical humour, Almodóvar does not present the tale as satire. Its splashy colour scheme, sprightly pace, crackling dialogue and a great Ennio Morricone score all adds up to a hilarious and romantic love story for the ages - gorgeously acted and always sumptuously entertaining.
And make no mistake - this is a classic. The film features one set piece after another which have both individually and collectively gone down in the sort of cinema history annals which guarantee that nobody who sees them will ever forget them and perhaps, most importantly, will delight in them all over again on subsequent helpings of the picture. Not to spoil things for those who haven't seen the film, I do wish to state for the record, that I, for one, hold a sequence involving a very phallic bathtub toy and Ms. Abril's lithe form in said bathtub, very near and dear to my heart, mind and groin.
Ultimately I feel as if Almodóvar worked his own magic as a filmmaker to tie us up and tie us down so that we fall in love with both characters and furthermore, fall in love with the idea that familiarity, no matter how its attained, will breed deep and ever-lasting affection.
Seriously. I have no problem with this.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is now available in a full-blown Criterion Collection Dual-Format Blu-Ray/DVD with the highest standards of picture and sound quality - especially the picture, which renders cinematographer José Luis Alcaine's images in the most eye-popping fashion. While the added features aren't as voluminous as one might expect, quality makes up for quantity. The Crown Jewel of the extras is a phenomenal half-hour 2003 featurette entitled Pedro and Antonio which presents a lively, warm conversation between Banderas and Almodóvar that presents a wealth of information regarding the production of the film, but also the fabulous working relationship between the two as well as the film's themes and subtext. This half-hour puts most feature length commentaries to shame in terms of how much information it presents and, importantly, shows. This is accompanied by a solid documentary entitled United! Reflections on Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, a great 15-minute segment with Michael Barker, the co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics, Almodóvar's primary champion in his early days, a very amusing segment of the entire cast of the film singing the hit song "I Will Survive" - in Spanish!!! Add to this a gorgeous cover for the box and a superb booklet and you've got yourself yet another keeper from the Criterion Collection.