The Spanish translation of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is organically different from the English, explained local comedienne wonder of the world Marga Gomezto spectators at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco. As part of a week long program of local standup comics introducing films at this vintage cinema house, LOL SF , (July 8-15) Gomez said that "Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios" is something quite different from the stereotype of women just losing it. She emphasizes that nervous breakdowns in Spanish are called "nervous attacks". She reported that these attacks involve a loss of emotional control that is often religious where women rip off their clothes and go into esoteric frenzy. The attacks can also be observed in Hispanic enthusiasm for the Spanish squad in the World Cup, and such frenzy is "not unlike life on the MUNI", quipped Gomez.
Gomez of Cuban-Puerto Rican descent admitted she has a bone or two to pick with the Spanish colonizers of the country where this film originates. But she does not take it out on Pedro Almodóvar'sWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdownfrom 1988 ("remember the 80's?", asks Gomez), a superbly fascinating study of women in love with a womanizer who has something positive to say about every woman and any woman.Carmen Maura plays Pepa, a TV actress who plays the role of a mother whose son is a homicidal maniac. Though she is able to clean all the blood stains from his clothes with a miracle laundry detergent she cheerfully promotes when the cops knock at the door. She is hopelessly in love with Ivan but teetering on the verge of collapse. So she sets fire to her bed and packs his suitcase.
Carmen Maura worked together with Almodóvar in seven of his films and certainly was one of his more sophisticated and commanding leading ladies, followed by Victoria Abril and later Penélope Cruz, all equally captivating.
In this colorful farce, an entourage of characters descend on Pepa's apartment, which she once shared with Ivan (Fernando Guillén) until he decides to take up with feminist lawyer, Paulina Morales (Kiti Manverx). Wife numero una, Lucia, (Julieta Serrano) is out to get him, having recently been released from the mental asylum, which she longs to return to. Son Carlos, a young Antonio Banderas and virgin girlfriend Marisa (Rossy de Palma) show up, and later two cops and a telephone repairman to fix the red phone Pepa constantly throws out the window. Meanwhile Candela (María Barranco) is hiding from the police so that she is not implicated with Shiite terrorists for hijacking a plane to Stockholm. And Billy Idol drives Pepa around town pursuing Ivan. All this is washed down with some serious spiked Gazpacho.
The ingenious idea of having comics introduce films is clearly in step with how San Francisco keeps its historic movie houses flourishing. Marga Gomez helped to embellish this comic masterpiece with a dimension that increased its viewing pleasure "exponencialmente". An added bonus was the appearance of ¡GARZA, delivering a melodramatic weepy from the film.