Los amantes pasajeros (I’m so Excited) – Pedro Almodovar (film, 2013)

The first main reason for my weakness and admiration for Pedro Almodovar’s films is the love he shows for women. He portrays them in all their uniqueness, never overlooking their beauty, be it in moments of desperation, agony or peace after a storm. He also has a unique way of expressing himself through colours, which is why his works seem to be full of life and luminosity, even when they are analysing humanity’s worst fears.

In his first comedy per se since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), we encounter a testament to colours, whether in flashy beverages (we all remember the infamous gaspacho, echoed in I’m so Excited through the Valencia Cocktail, a mix of champagne, orange juice, gin and mescaline) or flamboyant lipsticks and eye shades mixed with tan skin. While they first reminded me of the abundance present in 8 Women (François Ozon, 2002), the colours used by Almodovar do not only express personality traits, but announce secrets or even dreams. The quality of his comedies can perhaps remind of soap operas (also reflected through the music choice), inundated in superficial lighting, but it is this very detachment that has the power to hit our own reality the hardest: nothing is more enchanting than the opposite of what we see every day, and I believe that Almodovar’s choice of lens quality is there to require our most focused attention.

Despite this vibrancy, and while most of the film is set on an aeroplane, a suicide attempt occurring on the ground places us face to face with an omnipresent theme of death that soon hits the flight harder than expected.

What happens when death and beauty are combined? According to Almodovar, this brings out the most instinctive impulse: sex. What is more, in times of distress, what is the point of denying one’s true sexual orientation?

I’m so Excited focuses on business class passengers on a flight to Mexico City. The jet seems to have a technical failure and is circling around Toledo waiting for an available airport to land at safely. The passengers, sensing the panic ensuing between the inappropriately alcoholised and drugged stewards, confront the pilots in the cockpit and soon find out by their co-traveller Bruna (Lola Dueñas, an Almodovar regular), who claims she is psychic, that they may all be living their final few hours (“I smell death”). The highly spiked cocktail they all drink to calm their nerves not only inhibits every single one of them, but reveals that the smell of death Bruna was sensing is in fact issuing from one person in particular.

The acting in this picture is phenomenal – or is it simply spontaneous and warm, the way Spanish acting is supposed to be? We recognise a few of the protagonists from Almodovar’s previous films: Javier Cámara is hilarious as a homosexual alcoholic steward who continually promises the next is his last drink, as well as his co-steward played by Raúl Arévalo and the plane pilot brought to life by Antonio de la Torre. Cecilia Roth is stunning, even hidden behind her large make-up case, and it is a joy to observe Lola Dueñas’ innocence until, in slow motion as in a dream, she loses her virginity to a sleeping economy class passenger. Down on the ground, Blanca Suárez’ extreme beauty and luscious clothing do not intimidate us, as they are perhaps a symbol for strong femininity, crying to “look it in the eye”. In previous films, Penélope Cruz’s striking looks also acted as an additional bizarreness to the various plots. Speaking of which, Cruz and Antonio Banderas also offer delightful cameos in the film’s opening minutes.

The film is short, sweet, bubbly, like a cocktail of pure Spanish entertainment with just the right amount of elevation that keeps up from taking it all too seriously.

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