Me and Pedro Almodóvar in the twentieth century.

January 31st, 2015, 11am

It was 30°C with scattered clouds. The breeze was light.

I was a very, very young film critic and he was a budding film auteur. Pedro Almodóvar was already a name recognised to those well informed in the European film/club/music/underground scene but in Brazil, as far as I know, only two people knew about him. Those were me and the other person in the photo, Ivana Bentes, an even younger film critic. Together we edited a film magazine that conquered prestige unproportional to its circulation numbers (but that is another story).

When Rio Film Festival announced its competition lineup and it included Almodóvar’s “Matador” we got very excited, and got even more so when news arrived that Don Pedro himself would attend the screening of his film. And he did. And he was ignored or just plain trashed by the local press. Film critics didn’t even care to polemize about Matador. Most just plain disliked it and the rest of them were indifferent at best. All of them dismissed the film as irrelevant.

All of them except me and Ivana. We loved the film, we wrote about it and we went after Almodóvar for an interview. That was not hard to get. Nobody was interested in him and his schedule was far from busy. How lucky we were. We spent a whole afternoon by the swimming pool of Hotel Nacional, then the headquarters of the festival, discussing with not only his amazing “Matador” but pretty much any topic in filmmaking and filmgoing one could possibly imagine relevant in the second half of the 80’s. We happily discovered we shared with Almodóvar a deep admiration for Rainer Werner Fassbinder and a proportional contempt for Win Wenders, just to mention one example.

I don’t have the interview anymore, I have no idea where to find it, but maybe it’s better that way. Memory will play a much better role as editor of that material than I could have been at the time.

Ten years later Pedro Almodovar came back to Rio, this time to release “The Flower of My Secret”. My career as a film critic was about to end as I was already starting to work in film and TV myself. Ivana was now deep into the academic life in the university and our magazine no longer existed. But I still interviewed filmmakers for a cinema-centered TV show so I had a chance to talk to Almodovar again.

The same critics who ignored “Matador” became big fans of Almodóvar, mostly because in the meantime there were a picture called “Women in the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”. He was a big name now. Our second interview wasn’t so long and relaxed as the first one. He didn’t recognise me but I don’t think he was to blame. I got bald during those ten years and that makes much of a difference.

It was only at the end of the interview that I mentioned the previous interview. Now he recognises me and says “that interview was the only good thing that happened to me in that other time I was in Brazil”. We talked for a little longer and he went on to his next appointment in a schedule that was very busy this time.

Before going he smiled (not much, actually) and said to me: “You and I got much better in life in ten years. I don’t make low budget movies and you don’t write to underground magazines anymore”.

the photo was taken by my friend Cícero Rodrigues

David Wade, Etaoin, Christine and Luis said thanks.

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david frança mendes

Brazilian writer. I write. For the screen, mostly. Also for the page and stage.

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