American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Pedro Almodovar’s films are an acquired taste, and with “High Heels” I am at last beginning to acquire it. Although the fashionable Spanish director’s most famous film, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” is a favorite of many people, I had a curious experience with it: I simply could not engage it.
I saw it once, twice, three times finally in frustration and despair, and yet was unable to relate to anything on the screen. It slipped past me insubstantial as a ghost. His next film, “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!,” seemed like one of those meaningless exercises the writers in the New York weeklies call “postmodernism,” as if that explained anything.
But now here is “High Heels,” a film of great color and vitality, and while it is transcendentally silly, I rather enjoyed that quality. It’s a tongue-in-cheek melodrama of cheerfully ridiculous implausibility, involving the lurid lives and loves of a flamboyant actress, her emotionally fraught daughter, and the people in love with them. But even in that sentence I have played a little trick, since the “people” in love with them are fewer than it seems, through a surprise that I will not destroy for Almodovar.
The film stars Marisa Paredes as Becky Del Paramo (why does that name make me think of a female impersonator?), and Victoria Abril as her daughter. After subjecting her child to an upbringing of tempestuous upheaval, Del Paramo is liberated from her husband by his convenient death (hastened helpfully by the daughter). She flies off to Madrid, I believe it is, to become a great cult star, while the daughter, left behind, becomes a TV anchorwoman and marries one of her mom’s old flames.