Reviews and notes
, harsh, funny and absurd like Pepi, Luci, Bom
, has a blue-tinged sadness to it from its opening moments when a downbeat piano plays as a haze settles over Madrid. Two nuns from the Order of the Humble Redeemers (Julieta Serrano as the Mother Superior, Marisa Paredes as Sister Manure) go backstage for an autograph and photo of their favourite singer, cute, cranky and drug-addicted Yolanda (Christina S Pascual). (Pascual also appeared in Pepi, Luci, Bom
as a transsexual with a very high voice and an after-five shadow. Serrano has acted in most of Almodovar's films since Dark Habits
arid Paredes plays the mother in the 1991 High Heels
When Yolanda's boyfrierid O.D.s, she takes refuge in the convent, moving to the centre of a network of longing and betrayal. Sister Manure, a killer acquitted because the Mother Superior lied on her behalf, drops acid - into the food (we all see the world a bit differently when she cooks). Sister Sin (Carmen Maura) plays bongos and keeps a tiger called "Baby" and Sister Rat (Chus Lampreave) writes "sensationalist" literature under the pen-name "Concha Torres". She has no imagination, she says, she just tells the stories of the lost girls who come to the Convent. Sister Snake (Lina Canalejas) and the Chaplain (Manuel Zarzo) sew together; he's a fan of Cecil Beaton. In a lesson in the camp aethetic, the splendid, ornamental costuming of My Fair Lady
and the Catholic Church are displayed as part of the same dream-world.
The Mother Superior is as hooked on Yolanda as she is on heroin, as she has been on a series of young sinners. In a glorious scene, Yolanda walks into her room and the Mother Superior sings along, to her, to a record. Yolanda joins in, singing to the popular, cliched, sentimental music, "the only music that describes all true feelings". We have a tiny communion.
As Isabel Cadalso notes (in Cineaste, No 1, 1990
), the director accepts the imperfections of his characters rather than regretting them. There's a sympathetic understanding of their pain. To her last scream and after, the coke-snorting, blackmailing nun is framed with care and concern. No redeeming moral syrup cures the characters of their vitality, their passion without boundaries.
- Lorraine Mortimer, Cinema Papers, June 1994.
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