Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)

Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar

With lust and lust for life, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! provokes, teases, soothes and seduces in 101 unmistakably Almodóvarian minutes, bursting at the seams with the pasión, sensuality and throbbing color scheme that define his cinematic choreography.

A story of the mad relationship between obsession and loneliness, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! features a young and spry Antonio Banderas as Ricky, a newly released mental hospital patient who wastes no time in taking an actress hostage, convinced a little enforced one-on-one time will be enough to bring about a lifetime of devoted love, marriage, children and whatever else he can cram into his vision of contented romance. 

Target of his obsession is Victoria Abril (Marina Osorio), rising movie star, but former porn actress and heroin junkie, whose hard knocks come-up has instilled in her a self-possessed poise in the face of the film industry’s petty dick-led obsessions, the advances of which she brushes off with prejudice.

She of course meets her match in Ricky, perhaps the most dick-led of all men in Spain, and he proves hard to resist in the guise of Banderas, vibrant and never more disarming wrapped in his naked obsession, the power of which lets him commit a number of crimes and cruelties with a matter-of-factness that is, god help me for saying it, charming.

Was it not Banderas tying Victoria to her bed and threatening her, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! would be vibing very differently, and the same can be said of Almodovár’s style of filmmaking as a whole, where murders, assaults, and what’s worse are swept under a beautiful and seductive rug of color and composition whereupon all kinds of manic behavior is excused by people being too much in their well-intentioned feelings. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is no different, and is a film where the emotional foundation of Almodóvar’s story wears a little thin and narrative drive only really skates along on the seductive surface. 

But when it comes to Ricky and Almodóvar, misgivings are reduced to this: what foul behavior, what storytelling shortcomings would we not forgive, when it unfolds with such bravado and unbridled energy? When the trappings are this pristine and the attitude behind them so assured, how can you not be charmed by it?

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