08 December, 2016
What can we say about Pedro Almodóvar? Luis Buñuel notwithstanding, he is the internationally best known Spanish film director. His Oscar-award-studded, iconoclastic filmography includes both masterpieces and a large number of highly interesting movies. Like any creator worth his salt – and the Manchegan is one of these – Almodóvar has a pet city that features repeatedly in his films. We are referring to Madrid. In the late seventies he left his native Calzada de Calatrava and journeyed to the capital, Madrid, intent on making his name in cinema. It ended up becoming his favourite set. He has portrayed it in many different ways, revealing both its highlights and shadows, its well-known and its hidden facets. Almodóvar has explored virtually all the streets of his adopted city with a view to heightening the emotions and feelings of his main actors. His fiction breathes life into buildings, streets, establishments, airports, train stations and a long list of other settings.
The director of Volver turned the city into a film set, using to advantage real locations recognizable to his audience and turning some spots into must-visit centres of pilgrimage for his fans. Touring these precincts involves venturing into Almodóvar’s passionate, architectural world, by way of an alternative tourist guide to Madrid. We now retrace some of the most emblematic spots on a route which you can round off by viewing the films directed by the creator of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and jotting down new sites in your Almodovarian logbook.
Chicote Museum and La Bobia
One of the two bars that appear in Almodóvar’s films is the Chicote Museum, a chic cocktail bar with an eventful history sited on Madrid’s iconic Gran Vía. It opened in 1930 and its premises have been graced by a considerable number of contemporary stars and Hollywood classics, too. Its interior features in one of the main scenes of Broken Embraces, starring Blanca Portillo. La Bobia is another legendary meeting point in Madrid. It is hard by El Rastro flea market and was once a hotspot of La Movida (The Madrilenian scene). It was actually during those heady times that Almodóvar decided to set the opening scene of Labyrinth of Passion in La Bobia. The movie’s cast was headed by Imanol Arias and Cecilia Roth.
Cuartel del Conde Duque
A must-visit venue to see the spot where one of the Manchegan filmmaker’s most famous scenes was shot – when Carmen Maura takes a night-time shower with a hose in one of his masterpieces, Law of Desire. The scene was filmed in the doorway of the Cuartel del Conde Duque, one of Madrid’s largest and oldest palaces (it was built in 1717), which also boasts a highly valuable cultural and historical endowment. What’s more, once you’ve taken the snapshot de rigueur to relive Almodóvar’s shot, you can go inside and visit it, as it has been turned into a cultural centre featuring various temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
The M-30 Apartment Blocks
Pedro Almodóvar did not restrict himself to capturing only Madrid’s well-known city centre – he also turned his gaze to the suburbs. He did so in one of his best movies, the iconic What Have I Done to Deserve This? in which a long-suffering Carmen Maura is going through hell. She plays a woman who lives in one of the apartment blocks lining the M-30 motorway, a working-class residential area in the district of Moratalaz.
The Segovia Viaduct
One of the natural settings Almodóvar has used most often, both at the beginning of his career and even today. It appears in both Matador and the very recent I'm So Excited. In the latter, Paz Vega stars in an amusing scene shot against this backdrop. The Segovia Viaduct is located in Calle Bailén, near the Royal Palace, and is one of Madrid’s best known bridges.
Be sure to tour these Almodovarian settings – book your Vueling to Madrid here.
Text by Xavi Sánchez for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
08 December, 2016