September 20 — September 26
I’m So Excited
|Sat & Sun||2:00||5:00||7:00|
Unless otherwise noted, films begin on Friday and run through the next Thursday.
If you saw the title of this film and immediately heard the Pointer Sisters exuberantly singing (“I’m so excited / and I just can’t hide it!”) in your head, you’re probably in tune (so to speak) with the flamboyantly cheesy-yet-strangely-sincere vibe of director Pedro Almodóvar’s weird, wonderful kitsch comedies. This is a different kind of weirdness than we saw in the psychosexual horror story/black comedy The Skin I Live In; this is the more outrageous, campy, decorum-flouting Almodóvar who won over American audiences in the ‘80’s with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Like the latter film in particular, I’m So Excited! pushes the envelope in terms of sex—not so much how graphically it’s depicted, but the tone: comic, politically incorrect, even slapstick at times. Almodóvar is a provocateur that only a nation as deeply religious and conservative as Spain could have produced: at his best, he is an unbridled Id, offering the goofy (and sometimes sentimental) fantasies of a repressed culture. Fellow Spaniard Luis BunÞuel made films that were much more surreal, but Almodóvar keeps alive the same spirit of almost child-like irreverence toward moral authority—somehow, we can’t get too angry at the playful mockery of social conventions and mores. It’s all in good fun with Almodóvar, and though we can read his new movie—set almost entirely on an airplane that may be about to crash—as a possible allegory for the social and sexual anarchy of today’s world, it’s not necessary for full enjoyment of this goofy romp through gay (and straight) stereotypes. The set-up is almost elemental farce: the crew of an airliner discovers that the landing gear is out, and there’s nowhere to land. The passengers in coach are drugged (for their own good) so they won’t panic. The upper-class passengers are left conscious so they can dwell on their own fates, while the crew (all gay men) use the situation as an opportunity to stage burlesque numbers and vamp among the discomfited straights. Fueled by fear of death and copious amounts of alcohol, barbiturates, and mescaline, various characters will reveal (and act upon) their secret desires and in their remaining hours become their “true” selves. A pansexual orgy on a plane that’s going to crash may sound offensive (and the scene where a woman takes liberties, so to speak, with an unconscious male passenger undoubtedly is offensive, though knowingly so); if any filmmaker can take such dark material and make it fun, though, and even life-affirming (in a strange way), it’s Almodóvar. A big fan of soap opera clichés and Douglas Sirk movies, Almodóvar uses the let’s-open-up-about-ourselves scenario as a springboard into absurdity, as the characters discover unknown connections among each other and personal histories become increasingly bizarre. If there’s an abiding belief in the Spanish auteur’s work, it’s the idea that the most strait-laced, conservative, business suit-wearing capitalist conceals the heart of a flaming transvestite (or a rapist, prostitute, addict, artist, or any other type of person that society treats with distaste). The cast is delightfully game for the director’s shenanigans; everyone contributes to the “party at the end of the world” atmosphere, including Almodóvar regulars Antonio Banderas, Cecilia Roth, and Penélope Cruz. I’m So Excited! is much lighter Almodóvar (some critics found it too frivolous), but if heavy messages are important, the film does have some sly satire to offer: obviously, the divide between the drugged/unconscious lower classes and the hysterical/conscious upper classes—with the trio of campy gay stewards serving as their enablers and leaders in hedonism—represents the social divide between the working class, who are politically apathetic, disengaged, or just out of it; and the media-hogging, wealthy one-percenters whose strident voices turn what ought to be meaningful political dialogue into mere white noise. I’m So Excited! is global politics seen through a kitsch lens—and the conceit of a plane about to crash has some echoes of 9/11, a national tragedy that some believe helped solidify the bunker mentality of many Americans (as in, “it’s us against the rest of the world”). But the satire is wrapped in a frothy, highly amusing package, accentuating the essential silliness of the central metaphor—which can be summed up as “our post-9/11 world is spinning aimlessly out of control like an airplane that has to fly in circles because it can’t land.” Is the film a mockery of the youthful attitude that the world is doomed, so let’s party? Or a celebration of it? Viewers can judge for themselves—but whatever the verdict, I’m So Excited! is great fun for the open-minded: it’s as bawdy as The Canterbury Tales, as tacky as one of Cher’s gowns, and as effervescent as tomorrow’s favorite YouTube video. It’s one of Almodóvar’s most accessible, freewheeling films. It’s the perfect party for a post-summer hangover, great for Almodóvar fans as well as those new to the director’s mischievous, “anything goes” sensibility.
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