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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spain's King of Kitsch Delivers His 'Most Disturbing' Film Yet

MADRID, Spain -- Eroticism, guilt, fluorescent green platform shoes and drug abuse -- the latest film from Spain's king of kitsch Pedro Almodovar has all the ingredients his faithful fans have come to love.


After two years in hiding, the 48-year-old filmmaker has come out with "Live Flesh," a thriller based on a Ruth Rendell novel which explores a triangle of passion between a paraplegic policeman, his wife and a former convict.


"This is the most disturbing film I have made, and it is the one that has disturbed me the most," Almodovar said at a preview.


"'Live Flesh' is an intense drama, baroque and sensual that has the quality of a thriller and a classic tragedy. ... It's a very sexy film."


The film traces the fortunes of Victor, the son of a prostitute who was born on a Madrid bus in 1970. After his wrongful imprisonment 26 years later for supposedly shooting a policeman, he sets out to take revenge.


Disturbing it may be -- but the subject matter is not as dubious as some of his previous films.


In "Kika," he caused a storm with a 12-minute rape scene which the victim later admits enjoying. He outraged feminists with "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down," which depicts a bound and gagged woman who falls in love with her captor.


But such controversy has done the village boy from Castille no harm, and he has become Spain's most commercially successful filmmaker.


His comedy "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," which shot him to fame abroad, was the most successful foreign film of 1989 and won an Oscar nomination. Hollywood bought the rights and Jane Fonda, Whoopie Goldberg and Sally Field fought for the lead.


"The Flower of My Secret," his penultimate production, departed from the usual mix of kitsch and sex that characterized his previous films -- perhaps a sign he had matured, critics said.


Although "Live Flesh" has also been heralded as mature, it revives some of the melodrama and hedonism of his earlier films.


Almodovar pays homage to two icons of Spanish society in the production: filmmaker Luis Bunuel and democracy.


"I have made a homage to Bunuel, not deliberately but unconsciously, which is better," he said. Almodovar has often been compared to Bunuel, the distinguished director who produced films with strong Spanish roots while in exile in France and Mexico. The film plays on Bunuel's fascination with women's feet and includes clips from one of his films.


For the first time, Almodovar also confronts political issues in his film -- specifically the liberation of Spain after the fascist rule of General Francisco Franco which lasted almost 40 years until 1975.


In previous films, the director always shied away from being overtly political, arguing that Franco was a thing of the past. But "Live Flesh" is a departure, contrasting life under Franco's repressive rule and modern-day freedom.


"I needed to remember that we have changed and that this country has transformed into something very different, radically better, invulnerable to forces that may try to drag us down," he said. "We are not so far from that, but if there is something from this past that has gone, it's fear and once you lose that, it's once and for all."


Democracy is a subject close to Almodovar's heart. His film career started as the new era of democracy in Spain was born.


After Franco's death, he was a leading force of "La Movida," the accompanying era of artistic exploration, and he quickly gained the status of a cult figure in Madrid.