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What Have I Done To Deserve This? (1984) – DVD Review


Written and Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Starring Carmen Maura, Gonzalo Suárez, Angel de Andres-Lopez, Verónica Forqué, Chus Lampreave


  • Director filmography

Released by: Wellspring Video.
Rating: NR, 16+
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Si.

My Advice: Rent It if you are in the mood for something different.

Gloria (Maura) is a normal, if overworked, cleaning woman surrounded by the absurdity of modern life in Madrid. Her husband, Antonio (Andres-Lopez), is a full-time cabbie and a part time forger, who still holds a torch for a German opera singer he used to drive and have sex with. One of Gloria’s children is a dope dealer and the other likes having sex with his friends’ fathers, and Antonio’s mother (Lampreave) dotes on her dealer grandson and has just adopted a lizard called Money. And they’re all in a small apartment in a massive housing project. She is barely holding it together through her friendship with the prostitute next door Crisal (Forqué) and a lot of No-Doze. And all this is barely scratching the surface of the bizarre world Almodóvar has constructed in What have I Done To Deserve This?

Let me say right off the bat that this is not a popcorn movie. Almodóvar follows in the footsteps of Luis Buñuel and creates films that shock, intrigue, and titillate, not merely entertain. In other words, you have to pay attention and think. If you have a problem with this, tough. Thinking is good for you.

Almodóvar has an interesting technique of showing us characters that are the reverse of what society expects them to be. Crisal, the prostitute, is generally happy, not on drugs, and has no serious problems, unlike Gloria, the miserable and harried wife and mother–the supposed womanly ideal. Her youngest boy isn’t portrayed as a victim seduced by older pedophiles, he’s in charge of his own sexuality even negotiating a contract for his services with a potential sugar daddy–a dentist, no less. Many will be confused and maybe a little offended by Almodóvar’s topsy-turvy world of surreal extremes. But by cranking everything up to eleven, he hopes to show us how ridiculous our real world already is. Think about all the crap we accept in our lives because we want to function in society or are too tired or preoccupied to change anything. By shocking us, Almodóvar wants his audience to have a reaction and think.

While the usual themes Almodóvar explores are present (women battling out of their prescribed roles, the absurdity of sex, and the rapacious commercialism of the middle class), his style here is a lot freer and unsophisticated than in his later works. This is probably due to the explosion of freedom experienced by Spain at the time with the recent death of their dictator Franco. This looseness in directing will make this movie more appealing or not, depending on your taste.

The only feature present on the disc is a list of Almodóvar’s films to date. While this may help people who are interested is exploring more of his work, this is woefully deficient. A nice running commentary (subtitled or not) would have been a good pick, or, if nothing else a documentary on the man himself. Or they could have done what Buena Vista did with Belle de Jour and had an academic discuss the film as a commentary. There must someone who could discuss Almodóvar’s material and what it could mean. But still, because this doesn’t have the visibility of some of the director’s later works, we should be glad just to have it on DVD. I guess.

Anyway, despite the paucity of extras, if you want something outside the Hollywood Sausage Factory, go ahead and rent What Have I Done To Deserve This? But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the whole thinking thing.

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