Salome (1978) dir. Pedro Almodóvar
No English subtitles available for this one, lo siento.
Letterboxd and imdb both list the title with an accented “e,” but I don’t see Almodovar using any chocolate sauce on the accent in his title sequence, so I’m going with that spelling. This is a story combining a harrowing Oscar Wilde play of the same name with the harrowing Genesis story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, and it’s these opening titles that set the tone for how we should receive a potentially grim tale about a man who has to behead his son as payment for watching the famously seductive dance of the seven veils. Set to Paul Anka’s “Dance On, Little Girl,” this intro features playful practical titles intercut with candid shots of the cast. The levity in the credits sequence seems as incongruous with the original texts as the jeans dropped by the lead from under his Biblical robes.
The irreverence returns in the interpretation of the famous dance itself, shot in one take and scored with a rousing horn section and non-diegetic crowd cheers, giving the impression that the object of Abraham’s arousal is on par with witnessing a bullfight. The demand of Isaac’s head is taken seriously, especially by Isaac (played by Almodóvar’s younger brother and frequent collaborator Agustín) – my Spanish is very patchy but I think he responds “fuuuuuuuck that” before attempting to escape into the hills. Lucky for him, there’s a deus ex burning bush and the film ends with what had to be a very awkward trip back down the mountain.
The game with these early works of notable auteurs is to spot the commonalities that would come to define their later work. Here those brightly-colored titles and playful attitude among serious themes points to later Almodóvar. It can’t be called a student film – Francisco Franco closed the film school before he graduated – but “Salome” is still a learning step in the evolution of a unique cinematic voice.