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Steps toward understanding

January 19, 2003|Lewis Segal

Revolving around two comatose women and the men obsessed with them, Pedro Almodovar's new film, "Talk to Her" (Hable con Ella), also features an unusual emphasis on dance. Not only is one of Almodovar's sleeping beauties a former ballet student, but the film also begins and ends with dance segments that connect the writer-director's major characters and themes.

Almodovar didn't turn to classical dance for these sequences, but rather the surreal modernism of German choreographer Pina Bausch. The longest dance excerpt features Bausch herself in "Cafe Muller," which local audiences saw back in 1984 at the Olympic Arts Festival. Along with a passage from Bausch's "Masurca Fogo," it depicts women nearly as trapped and helpless as the coma patients in Almodovar's narrative.

Modern dance in any feature film is rare, but Almodovar had already used a poster of "Cafe Muller" in his film "All About My Mother." When he finished writing "Talk to Her" and looked at that poster again, he says in a recent interview, "I had no doubt that it was the image which best represented the limbo in which my story's protagonists lived.... Around that time, I saw 'Masurca Fogo' in Barcelona.... "

"If I had asked for it specifically, I couldn't have got anything better," he declares. "Pina Bausch had unknowingly created the best doors through which to enter and leave 'Talk to Her.' "

-- Lewis Segal

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