Upon re-watching his brilliant film-noir tribute Bad Education, I couldn't help but notice how many times Pedro actually pays tribute to himself and even gives advanced previews to his own films. Simple enough I suppose when one of the lead characters is based on Pedro himself (in)directly: a queer filmmaker drawn to offbeat character pieces and an explosive exposé on Catholic priests exposing themselves.
Decked out in alter-ego Pedro's production office are posters accentuating these close ties. The two worth special notice are for a film titled La Abuela Fantasma, which translates roughly to "Ghost Grandma." I can only assume this means Almodóvar was tinkering with Volver at the time - his sensational saga of a mother seeking closure beyond her supposed death. Or at the very least he was interested in making a Spanish variation on Ghost Dad.
Of course Almodóvar already gave us early glimmers of Volver way back in 1995 with The Flower of My Secret, in which he (in)directly tells of a Pedro-like author veiling her potent plotlines behind fake names. The film has our alter-ego author criticized by the angriest of agents for delivering stories that seem too absurd, without any discernible love behind them. One dissed idea is Volver down to a tee:
"A novel about a mother who discovers her daughter's killed her father who had tried to rape her? And so that no one finds out hides the body in a cold-storage room of the neighbor's restaurant?Glad she's not Pedro's actual agent! Volver would have never seen the light of day. But by that description alone, one can barely imagine Volver's eventual richness and stunning ode to a mother's devotion.
Pedro also taps into his back-catalogue with a second dissed plotline:
"Who'll dream of people living in a seedy slum like the living dead? Who'll identify with a protagonist who works emptying shit out of hospital bedpans, who's got a junkie mother-in-law and faggot son who's into black men?"
Well, pissy agent woman, perhaps fans of What Have I Done to Deserve This? would identify with that... only replace "black men" with "creepy pedophile dentists."
Plus, even if it goes unspoken, a film like Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! certainly takes a knowing thematic leap from Law of Desire, with its "stalkers make the best soulmates" conceit. (A clingy Antonio Banderas is still Antonio Banderas.) Almodóvar's one of the few auteurs whose ideas we've seen visually and vocally gestate throughout his career. The inspired streams of consciousness for his characters eventually become the inspirational threads for his finest films. It's this kind of self-influence that leads to such personal, passionate and effortless touches on his part. It's also I'm sure what leads to his mammoth collection of devoted followers. You know the type: bloggers who make the most of insignificant details in his films.