Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Review: Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)

Who hasn’t felt, when in the throes of passionate love, just a little unbalanced, maybe even not-so-slightly lunatic? And who hasn’t felt a little spiritually strangled, mentally manacled by the obsessive love of another? And which of us hasn’t done something dreadful from which we’ve spent significant psychic energy trying to escape in an aimless journey down the river of denial, perhaps eventually committing to a series of actions aimed at expatiating this perceived sin, all the while secretly convinced of a personal unworthiness of complete catharsis?

Hmmm… okay, maybe not. Still, hang with me for a while on this, okay?

I guess the reason that Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Spanish director-farceur Pedro Almodovar’s dark sex farce, remains a constant source of delight throughout its 100 minutes, and in the years since its 1990 release is its consistently relevant, deliriously provocative and giddily perverse exploration of the off-kilter and cruel-to-be-kind world of obsessive love.

This movie’s focus is almost entirely on the disturbing relationship that develops between recently released mental patient Ricky (Antonio Banderas) and drug addict/one time porno star with “legit” thespian ambitions Marina (Victoria Abril). Indeed, a big part of the film’s appeal is the nature of Almodovar’s fearlessness; he tackles clichés, like those implicit in this Madonna-whore treatment of Marina, in order to turn them on their collective heads and force us to face our own comfortable preconceptions. Ricky, a slightly lunatic Lothario, has become obsessed with Marina, and decides that the best way to convince her to return his love is to kidnap her in her own home then tie her to her bed. “I’ll never love you, ever,” she quite plausibly asserts. “We’ll see,” retorts Ricky.

And man, do we ever. See, that is. The “evolution” of their relationship, which challenges the audience’s comfortable middle-class comfort zones with regard to love and sexuality, is as visually exciting as it is intellectually and emotionally brave. The film is explicit, not just in its sex scenes, but its emotional honesty, as we struggle to understand these fragile, remarkable characters caught in an extraordinary love story, whose bonds of love are the ties that bind. Central to this film’s success is not only Almodovar’s uncompromising adherence to this tightrope vision, where he treads delicately between moments of giddy farce and then challenges us with dark scenes that threaten emotional and intellectual revulsion, but also a pair of no-holds-barred bravura performances in the lead roles. The charismatic Banderas, whose Ricky is the definition of dangerous and alluring Latino sexuality, and the pouty and sensuous Abril, whose Marina is both alluring and dangerous, deliver performances that are almost unsettlingly unselfconscious.

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is a film that won’t sit easily with a lot of people whose comfortable lives are built around Hallmark-like assumptions about the “niceness” of love. But for the rest of us, the film offers a delightfully twisted romp through the darkness visible in the recesses of our libido.

No comments:

Post a Comment