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Kika Movie Review

almodovar rape film television

Pedro Almodovar thrived in the post-Franco era, directing a series of nine films that challenged our ideas of how sexuality, violence, comedy, and tragedy could be conveyed on-screen. His tenth film, premiering at 1994's San Francisco International Film Festival, reveals evidence of an unmistakable and, I hope, temporary decline. Almodovar's best films have always dealt with his own concerns and his own culture. In Kika, he drew his inspiration from the media feeding frenzy that surrounded the William Kennedy Smith rape trial. How humiliating, perhaps more humiliating than the rape itself, Almodovar observed, that the alleged victim's underwear was shown on U.S. television. And, although tabloid television has invaded Spain as well, his source material is essentially external. His understanding of the lives of the people who are affected by tabloid television is not terribly profound; in Kika, for the first time, Almodovar fails to get inside the skin of his characters. The title role is well played by Veronica Forque as a distaff version of Candide, but her relentless cheerfulness makes no sense, especially in a rape sequence. She may be uncomfortable, but for the most part, she takes the act for granted. To her, the true villain is not her rapist, but Andrea Scarface (Victoria Abril), who obtains footage of the rape and televises it. In the entire 115-minute film, Kika only expresses outraged sensibilities for an instant, and the moment passes very quickly. All of the stock Almodovar ingredients are in place: the dry wit in moments of high drama, the sheer speed of Almodovar's storytelling style, even the zany fringe characters who would add ironic contrast to a more compelling central premise. With his latest strained effort at grabbing the attention of international audiences, Almodovar strays further and further from his greatest artistic gift: the ability to see all the way down to the darkness of the human soul with clarity and compassion. Kika is only a tourist's eye view of serial killings, voyeurism, and the contemporary media. Rent Matador or Law of Desire on home video instead and look forward to better things from Almodovar on the big screen in the future.

1994 115m/C SP Veronica Forque, Peter Coyote, Victoria Abril, Alex Casanovas, Rossy de Palma; D: Pedro Almodovar; W: Pedro Almodovar; C: Alfredo Mayo; M: Enrique Granados. VHS, DVD

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