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Talk to Her

One thing's for certain — no one could ever accuse Pedro Almodóvar of being a copycat. The colorful, effusive Spanish auteur makes the kind of original, thought-provoking films most of Hollywood wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole — and, in a happy twist of irony, he has been showered with praise and awards for them. His 2002 Talk to Her even netted him an Oscar (for best original screenplay), and it's not hard to see why. Without being preachy or didactic, the carefully constructed story of two comatose women and the men who love them is overflowing with compelling meditations on the nature of communication and relationships. At the center of the film are Benigno (Javier Cámara), a lonely nurse utterly devoted to his patient Alicia (Leonor Watling), and Marco (Darío Grandinetti), a stoically emotional travel writer whose matador girlfriend Lydia (Rosario Flores) lands in Benigno's clinic after an accident in the ring. Taking a slightly shell-shocked Marco under his wing, Benigno advises the older man on how to connect with Lydia, even if Marco feels as though it's futile. "Talk to her," Benigno says, as he talks to Alicia, telling her all about his life, his feelings, his hopes and desires. As the men become friends, they learn the details of each other's lives through a series of flashbacks that reveal unexpected layers to each man's relationship with the woman in his care. Ultimately, the story takes a sad but not wholly surprising twist, one that seems to call into question much of what the film has already said about devotion and love, but is really just challenging the viewer's assumptions and snap judgments. Almodóvar's sure-handed direction inspires strong performances from both Cámara and Grandinetti, as well as from the two women — particularly Watling, who is required to be motionless but still vibrantly alive for most of the movie. The film's bright colors and quiet moments translate well to the small screen — Columbia TriStar's DVD offers an excellent anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and a crystal-clear Spanish DD 5.1 audio track (French 5.1 audio also is available, as are English and French subtitles). Aside from a handful of trailers, the disc's only extra is a commentary by Almodóvar and co-star Geraldine Chaplin, who plays Alicia's high-spirited dance teacher, Katerina. Much more cohesive in his native Spanish than he is when he attempts English — but just as enthusiastic and talkative — Almodóvar offers a steady stream of thoughtful, insightful comments on the film. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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