Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Original title: Los Amantes Pasajeros
Spain, 2013. El Deseo. Screenplay by Pedro Almodovar. Cinematography by Jose Luis Alcaine. Produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García. Music by Alberto Iglesias. Production Design by Antxon Gomez. Costume Design by David Delfín, Tatiana Hernandez. Film Editing by José Salcedo.
A careless mistake by two airport employees (goofily funny cameos by Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas) results in a flight from Spain to Mexico needing to make an emergency landing when it turns out the gear is jammed. Now the airplane circles the air above Toledo waiting hours for a free runway to descend upon, while mayhem ensues in the cabins in the sky. The tourists in economy class doze away, having been given tranquilizers by the loopy stewards, while the strong personalities in business class battle for their bitchy demands, driving the three campy flight attendants crazy before a spiked concoction of Valencia cocktails (liberally dosed with recreational drugs) turns them all into orgiastic sex maniacs. Pedro Almodovar returns to the silly fun he was having making movies in the eighties, though the deliberate camera work and detailed polish of his images that has developed in the thirty years since his beginnings is an element of directorial expertise he cannot shake. It does not have the rebellious tones that he is hoping to recapture, the man is simply a lot more pensive than he ever used to be, but that does not leave the film without its pleasures. As a relaxed entry between more intense movies like Broken Embraces or The Skin I Live In, this is one his fans will get great delight out of, particularly in the appearances of a number of cast members (Cecilia Roth, Javier Cámara, Lola Dueñas among them) who are familiar from his other films. The satirical allegory of the plot, which references the current Spanish political climate to exacting degrees, will be lost on those not familiar with its targets, but the broader themes are not that hard to spot: the lower classes forced into slumber, the fewer people in the luxury class overriding the decisions of people in charge who know better but have no useful power, the endless circling in the air without a place to go. Then there’s the hilarious tropes of sexual politics, with men culturally obsessed with their own machismo but behaving like raging homos the first chance they get. Thankfully, Almodovar does not make his observations in a pedantic manner, and as such his charmer has a fun, take-it-or-leave-it quality that makes it inoffensive for even the most demanding viewer.