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A Pride Month screening

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios

Dir: Pedro Almodóvar, 1988, Spain, Spanish with English subtitles, 89 mins, Cert: 15

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Sun 30 June // 20:00

Tickets: £5 (full)

Book tickets

Conversing with the voicemail machine, drugging the cops with spiked Gazpacho, wearing Moka pot earrings - anything's possible in Pedro Almodóvar's most Almodóvarian work, the film that made him one of the world's most celebrated directors after years of being Spain's best kept secret.   

The transgressive vision of sexuality that lies at the heart of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is all the more striking considering that the 36-year rule of the arch-conservative General Franco had only ended with his death a little more than a decade before the film's release. The disruptive force of desire leads to an eruption of farcical misunderstandings and confrontations - but none of Almodóvar’s spinning plates come crashing to the ground thanks to his tight plotting and the control of his actors' performances. 

And as ever with Almodóvar, there's a dose of cinephilia to go with the tranquilizers in the soup - here, he has fun with Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (playing at the Cube on Thursday 27th June), by making the couple at the centre of the chaos voice actors dubbing the Western into Spanish.  

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When Pepa Marcos' (Carmen Maura) lover Ivan (Fernando Guillén) suddenly leaves her without any explanation, she embarks on a strange journey to discover why. On the way she meets a variety of eccentric characters, including Ivan's son from a previous relationship (Antonio Banderas), his fiancee Marissa (Rossy de Palma) and a Shiite terrorist cell who have been secretly holding her best friend Candela (María Barranco) hostage.

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"Why are Candela’s earrings shaped like little Italian espresso makers? It’s a question that brings me back, again and again, to Pedro Almodóvar’s unimpeachable 1988 film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. At the core of that question lies the genius of this eccentric and beloved Spanish filmmaker. Those earrings are probably not the reason why the film became an international hit upon its release, courting the attention of the Academy a full decade before All About My Mother won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2000 Oscars. Those earrings are symbolic of the colourful and frenzied cinematic universe that Almodóvar been building now for close to 40 years." - Mathilde Dumazet, Little White Lies

"Pedro Almodóvar may be the only first-rank director who sets out to tickle himself and the audience. He doesn’t violate his principles to do it; his principles begin with freedom and pleasure. Born in 1951, this Spaniard from hicksville went to Madrid at seventeen, got a job as a clerk at the National Telephone Company in 1970, and, during the more than ten years he worked there, wrote comic strips, articles, and stories for “underground” papers, acted in theatre groups, composed film scores, recorded with a rock band, performed as a singer, and shot films in Super 8 mm. and 16 mm. He absorbed the avant-garde slapstick of the late sixties and the seventies along with Hollywood’s frivolous and romantic pop, and all this merged with the legacy of Bunuel and with his own intuitive acceptance of loco im­pulses. Generalissimo Franco kept the lid on for thirty-six years; he died in 1975, and Pedro Almodóvar is part of what jumped out of the box. The most original pop writer- director of the eighties, he’s Godard with a human face—a happy face." - Pauline Kael, The New Yorker