In Matador, Pedro Almodovar displays more polished filmmaking technique, but moves away from social commentary for a frenzied feeding on themes of carnal and blood obsession. The film’s pulsing sexuality and mock mystery structure could hook specialty audiences, but those unfamiliar with Spanish society may not fully appreciate some of pic’s corrosive, satirical subtexts.
Angel (Antonio Banderas), an emotionally repressed 21-year-old who lives with his conservative harridan of a mother, secretly attends the bullfighting school of Diego (Nacho Martinez), a gored-into-retirement ex-champion matador with the sexual appetite of a lusty bull. Diego supplements his relationship with the gorgeous but vacuous fashion model Eva (Eva Cobo) with diversionary flings, hardcore bondage porn and ‘snuff’ videos and, as it transpires, the occasional murder of pretty girls whom he buries on the grounds of his opulent estate in suburban Madrid.
Frustrated in his attempt to win the respect of his hero maestro, Angel one night attempts to rape the matador’s girlfriend, but fails in humiliating fashion. When young girls are reported missing, Angel confesses to their murders and is taken into custody while the police search for evidence. Angel is assigned a feminist lawyer, Maria (Assumpta Serna), who, it turns out, has the greatest obsession of all for the fallen matador.
Almodovar unfolds this convoluted plot with zig-zagging surrealism and a careening, sordidly erotic energy that effectively undermines the culturally institutionalized repression targeted by the filmmaker. Serna and Martinez stand out as victims of psycho-sexual passion gone amok, while supporting performances are very effective.