Welcome to the W Movie Club, a new series in which W magazine’s editors pick five iconic films to watch while in quarantine. This week, executive editor Armand Limnander chooses his go-to’s, including his absolute favorite movie from his all-time favorite director, Pedro Almodóvar.
All About My Mother
Perhaps because of his uncanny ability to make the outrageous seem totally commonplace, Pedro Almodóvar has been my favorite director ever since I was a kid growing up in Colombia. I have great fondness for his early, lo-fi productions like Pepi, Luci, Bom; Labyrinth of Passion, and Dark Habits, which were largely about shock value (lesbian golden showers! Big dick contests! Nuns on acid!), but in my opinion, his best work is All About My Mother, which combines the director’s campy sense of humor with a surprising depth of feeling. There are too many plot twists to go into, but the dedication Almodóvar includes in the film gives us an idea of what to expect: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to bemothers. To my mother.”
Everyone knows that being a suburban housewife can be tedious and demoralizing. But can it make you physically sick? In Todd Haynes’ 1995 classic, Julianne Moore plays a comfortable but aimless homemaker in the San Fernando Valley who becomes inexplicably allergic to, well, everything. Why doesn’t she sweat in aerobics class? Can a passing truck really be the cause of her severe coughing fit? Will she faint if the room is wiped down with cleaning products? How come no one really believes there’s something wrong with her? Can the nascent wellness movement save her? And can she even be part of a world that seems hell-bent on destroying her?
We all need a bit of Bette Midler in our lives. Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) plots to murder his wife Barbara (Midler) for her fortune when, as fate would have it, she’s kidnapped by a couple of not-so hardened criminals. Barbara’s captors soon realize that Stone has no interest in paying her ransom and would, in fact, like to see her dead; hijinks and hilarity ensue. Though Midler and DeVito are one of the all-time-great odd couples, my interest in this movie is almost exclusively aesthetic. Barbara’s personal styling, which relies on brusque angles and strident color blocking, is amazing enough; but her opulent home, done to the late-eighties nines in eye shadow hues, is a true post-modern paradise/apocalypse. If some of the interiors seem oddly familiar despite their eccentricity, it’s because many of the furnishings are actually Memphis originals by designers like Ettore Sottsass. It’s fun to spot the real pieces among the props.
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
Be warned, this movie packs quite a punch, and you’ll be thinking about it long after its over. Chronicling the love affair of two AIDS activists—one HIV-positive, the other negative—in early nineties Paris, BPM offers an unflinching portrayal of the gay community at a time of extreme distress. The film’s writer-director, Robin Campillo, and his co-screenwriter, Phillipe Mangeot, were both involved in ACT UP, and drew from their personal experiences to make the film; perhaps that’s why BPM simultaneously feels like an intimate love story and a quasi-documentarian survey. AIDS is thankfully not nearly as devastating a disease as it once was, but our current political moment makes the kind of balls-to-the-wall defiance of the ACT UP movement feel more relevant than ever.
This is that rare documentary that is as compelling as a feature film. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna was one of the greats of Formula One. He had a running feud with another star driver, Alain Prost, which both men acknowledge and discuss in interviews with an honesty that is rare to see in the sports world today. Even if you’re not into cars, you’ll be entranced by Senna’s magnetism and his passion for the sport that wound up costing him his life. As a bonus, we get a glimpse of Senna’s bombshell girlfriend, Xuxa Meneghel; she was one of the most successful entertainers in Brazil thanks to her children’s television program Xou da Xuxa, which debuted a couple of years after she starred in the erotic film Love Strange Love.