“Matador” (1986) dir. Pedro Alomodovar

I discovered the films of Pedro Almodovar at just the right time in America, around 1988 or so. Almodovar was just about to release his American breakthrough “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and my college film class that fall showed his 1984 comic masterpiece “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” to a bewildered, but otherwise appreciative audience. I loved “What Have I Done …?” so when our college film society showed “Matador” later that semester, I made it a point to go.

If there was ever a film to see with an audience, “Matador” was it. I remember the college theater was about 3/4 full (unusual for a foreign-language film showing on a Sunday night). The opening sequence features a montage of some of the most graphically violent scenes in recent movie history while the lead male character (played by someone named Nacho Martinez … one of the greatest actor names in film history) frantically masturbates while watching it. At that point, the audience started nervously laughing. And the laughs continued throughout. As I walked out of the theater, I thought “Matador” was one of the most deliriously obscene and funny films ever made. It was as crude and as nasty as any John Waters underground masterpiece, but unlike Waters, “Matador” looked like it had a decent budget and production values. I thought, “Finally, someone blended art and extreme sleaze in a wonderfully shot, acted, written, and directed package.”

Almodovar has continued to top himself over the years and won Oscars for Best Foreign Film in 1999 for “All About My Mother” and in 2002 for Best Original Screenplay for “Talk to Her.” Almodovar consistently is one of the most bracingly original filmmakers working today. However, “Matador” remains my favorite. Its combination of high art and NC-17 rated sex, violence, and sleaze is still remarkably potent.

The attached trailer is in Spanish with subtitles in a language that’s not English. However, the trailer does give a pretty good idea of what this film is about. Antonio Banderas plays a pivotal supporting role in “Matador.” If you’re not a prude and are looking for a walk on the wild side, check out “Matador” pronto. Not to be confused with the 2005 film “The Matador” starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear.

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