Play with your Life.

Posted on February 21, 2012

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While he’s always enjoyed great critical acclaim, it’s Almodóvar‘s repertoire from 1999 onward that has received more popular success, starting with All About my Mother and including other truly great films such as Talk to HerVolver, and recently La Piel que Habito. Personally though, I love Almodóvar’s work from the 80’s best. It was shocking, rebellious, cutting edge. Or as the renowned film critic Pauline Kael said, “[Almodóvar] reactivates the clichés of film noir and brings them into the land of punk.”

Don't you think Almodóvar looks like a character from Where the Wild Things Are?

His later work is still an exploration of the depths and outer edges of cinematic themes, but one could argue it’s less about pushing boundaries. Less punkish, more preternatural. Some attribute this shift to greater maturity and nuance as an auteur, but it could just as well as mean that 30 years ago there were more boundaries to push. Whatever the case may be, if you haven’t already seen them, you should definitely add La Ley del DeseoMujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, Átame, and Tacones Lejanos to your netflix queue (or pirated-move wish list). (I mean, not that you would pirate movies though. Who does that?)

In the meantime, and capturing a bit the rebelliousness that characterized those 80’s films, I give you a quote that I read once in a class on Almodóvar.

 “Life … gives us opportunities, although it usually gives more to those who are adventurous – to the crazy people who play with their lives, who place bets on their decisions – than to those who carry out an organized and ordinary existence.”
~ Pedro Almodóvar

Not that I consider Almodóvar to be a particularly sage counsel, but I appreciate his energetic risk-taking. So I absorbed this idea in college and have somewhat tried to live by it.

And I find it interestingly applicable to cross-cultural couples. Let’s do a little exercise. Close your eyes an imagine yourself before you met your partner. Try to remember what your expectations were for a relationship. Who was your ideal companion? Better yet, forget what you wanted. Now imagine what your parents wanted. If your parents had had the task of finding a perfect mate for you, who would they have set you up with? In other words, who did society see you ending up with?

Chances are, probably not the person you’re with.  All cultures have the tendency to stick with “their own,” not only in terms of pairing-up romantically but also in the broader sense of not intermixing much with the unfamiliar. Of course this is changing thanks to macro-phenomena such as migrations, travel, and technology.

But still, I would say that people who enter into cross-cultural relationships are generally placing bets on their decisions. So when one or both halves of a couple moves across the world to be with a loved one, I’d sure call that adventurous. Marrying someone with a skin color different from your own, or a different language, culture, or country, is hardly carrying out an “ordinary existence.”

Leading an ordinary existence could add you to these Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. (Watch it. Now.)

Making cross-cultural relationships work involves a lot of risk-taking. But as they say, high risk can lead to high rewards.

Cheers to that. Cheers to playing with your life. I can say for myself that having a partner with a background different from my own has led to numerous opportunities that I probably would never have dreamed of and certainly wouldn’t have experienced. It’s true that our life isn’t always so organized. Perhaps some folks even see certain decisions as “crazy.” But I know for a fact that as a result of our risk-taking, adventure-making, bets-placing existence, our lives are far the richer.

One last Almodóvar quote, explaining his work:

“I make films about strong passions.  How a character jumps into a world to give sense to their life.”
~ Almodóvar

Isn’t that what we’re all doing? Trying to give sense to our life? Almodóvar doesn’t provide an answer on how to do so. But he seems to infer it’s in the trying that we start to get closer. It’s in pursuing our passions that we live life in more vivid color. It’s by jumping into a new world that we create greater opportunities for ourselves. I say, jump away! And see if where you land isn’t a lot more exciting than where you started.

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