Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano
Rated: R/Region A/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from The Criterion Collection
Melding melodrama with screwball farce, this Academy Award–nominated black comedy was Pedro Almodóvar’s international breakthrough and secured his place at the vanguard of modern Spanish cinema. Continuing the auteur’s exploration of the female psyche, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown tells the story of Pepa—played by the director’s frequent collaborator Carmen Maura—who resolves to kill herself with a batch of sleeping-pill-laced gazpacho after her lover leaves her. Fortunately, she is interrupted by a deliciously chaotic series of events. The filmmaker channeled Hollywood inspiration into his own unique vision, arriving at the irreverent humor and vibrant visual sense that define his work today. With an exceptional ensemble cast that also includes Antonio Banderas and Rossy de Palma, this film shows an artist in total control of his craft.
With a young Antonio Banderas in the mix, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown gives us a language barrier-breaking comedy that is done in an old style but is still very hip and fun for the current time. It is a film that is shot with a master’s eye, as the camera work can show you from almost the start. I never was one to go out of my way to talk about camera work unless it is truly something different and eye catching and this is a movie that brings the goods in that department. Some call this one a comedy classic and I can see why. The plot revolves around a woman (Carmen Maura) in search of her lover (Fernando Guillen). What follows is a good mix of wacky subplot and an onslaught of great and entertaining characters. In the search for Ivan, our leading lady finds that Ivan’s ex-wife Lucia (Julieta Serrano) has been released from the crazy house of all places, a place to which she has been since her breakup with Ivan. She then finds out that Ivan has a son (here’s our Antonio Banderas) that she had no idea about. The fun just keeps rolling on from there.
Being mostly a horror and genre fan, you might not think something like this would be down my alley but I still managed to have a doggone good time with it and I found myself legit laughing at some of the stuff that goes down on the screen. A comedy that is legit funny can be a rare thing to find, but this one brings the goods there as well. Criterion brings this movie to us on a great Blu-ray release. One that not only looks good but comes with some cool extras as well and as only Criterion can bring. If nothing else this one is a good one to see for some early Antonio Banderas work. He’s always great but does a fine job in this one as well. Sure, we know him for his action roles and the ladies love him, but the man has some comedic timing as well. All in all, Pedro Almodóvar is a director that you should probably know about if you don’t. If you want a good starting point for his work, then Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is a great starting point for all fans of film in general.
– New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Pedro Almodóvar and executive producer Agustín Almodóvar, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
– Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
– New interviews with Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar, and actor Carmen Maura
– New discussion by film scholar Richard Peña of the film’s impact in Spain and abroad
– New English subtitle translation
– PLUS: An essay by novelist and critic Elvira Lindo
Quality of Transfer: 97%