DVD Review: Viva Pedro

Movie •••• Picture •••• Sound •••½ Extras ••½
This terrific survey of Pedro Almodóvar's work covers a wide range of the director's output: from the outrageous (and NC-17 rated) Matador (1986) and Law of Desire (1987) to the delectable Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), the transitional The Flower of My Secret (1995) and Live Flesh (1997), and mature classics such as the morally and emotionally ambiguous All About My Mother (1999), Talk to Her (2002), and Bad Education (2004).

Image quality is consistently high: Colors are rich and ripe, while the riot of detail that Almodóvar is so fond of - the elements of clutter that make up the messy personal spaces in Education, the creases and torn edges of the crumpled paper used as backgrounds to Law's titles - are clear and well-defined.

The more recent titles carry multichannel soundtracks that use the surrounds to give the always integral music of Almodóvar's films a visceral impact. There are also some fine atmospheric effects in Talk, as well as subtle, disturbing uses of the subwoofer. The only technical flaws in the set were the wan skin tones and hard-edged sound in Women, but neither was too distracting.

Extras include Almodóvar's (subtitled) Spanish commentary on Talk and Education, focusing on analysis rather than filmmaking details. Flower comes with an above-average making-of short, while Education has an introduction to a film-festival screening that's most interesting when the director explains his film to the audience. The set's ninth disc contains documentaries filled with interviews by most of Almodóvar's longtime collaborators. These featurettes are engaging, especially the one on Almodóvar's biography, though the rest could have been edited into a single, tighter piece. All: anamorphic widescreen; single layer. Matador, Law, and Women: Spanish, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono. Matador and Women: letterboxed (1.85:1). Law: letterboxed (1.66:1). Flower: Spanish, Dolby Surround; letterboxed (2.00:1). Live, Talk, and Bad: Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1). Talk: French, Dolby Digital 5.1; Bad: dual layer. Matador, Law: [NC-17]. Women, Flower, Live, Mother, Talk, Bad: [R]

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