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Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (DVD)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (DVD)
Date: 13/10/05, updated on 13/10/05 (187 review reads)
Advantages: Stylish, sophisticated, witty
Disadvantages: It had to end
Ricky (Antonio Banderas) is discharged from a psychiatric hospital where he has spent the last few years, following a traumatic adolescence during which he repeatedly absconded from a series of orphanages and reform homes. Desperate for a normal life he sets his sights on Marina, a porn actress with whom he had once had a one-night stand. Now acting in dreadful B-movies, Marina is a heroin addict, leading a miserable life. Ricky starts to hang out at the film studios hoping to catch Marina's attention but his attempts are pretty feeble and he fails miserably. Ricky realizes that he will have to resort to extreme measures if he is going to get his girl. He breaks into her flat and takes her prisoner, tying her to the bed to prevent her from escaping. With Marina a captive, Ricky plans to win her heart and is convinced that when she succumbs to his charms, they will lead a blissful life together.
Marina, as you would expect, is not happy about this arrangement. Not only is she being held prisoner in her own home, she suffers badly because of her drug addiction. So sure is Ricky of his plan, that he happily takes all Marina throws at him, turning to crime to make sure she has everything she needs. Eventually, realizing that they have in common a tragic past, the pair start to make concessions with the most surprising results.
On the surface this could be a Hollywood tale of a sinister stalker pursuing a beautiful actress. All the elements are there - kidnap, suspense, sex, drugs….but several things turn this simple idea completely on its head. For a start, Ricky does not tie Marina up for erotic reasons; it is the only way he can think of to get her full attention. It is symbolic that Marina, who would usually be willingly tied up for the cameras should suffer this fate. The notion of the captive as weak and the captor as in charge is similarly dispelled; despite being a captive, it is Marina who calls the shots. The eager to please, almost subservient Ricky will do whatever it takes to convince Marina that they should be together. To throw the viewer completely off balance, this movie is filmed in bright colours and has a real sense of cheer about it. Almodovar's films have always been visually stimulating but the use of these bright colours and light here makes the kidnap situation less sinister than might have been the case if Marina had been held captive in a darkened cellar. It is touches like this that make Almodovar stand apart from the rest.
One especially interesting aspect of the film is the reference to the "Stockholm syndrome" in which captives begin to feel close to their captors. It does not spoil the film to say that Marina does show signs of this but it develops in the most surprising way. Of course, Ricky is not your typical stalker; this is one of Antonio Banderas's finest roles ( I wish he still made these low key Europpean movies) and his Ricky is handsome, charming and vulnerable yet at the same time confident and audacious. The change in this character as the film goes on is just one example of the hilariously dark humour employed throughout; at the beginning he is nervous, struggling to find a way to get to Marina but as time passes he becomes the model "husband", returning home each day, calling to the somewhat tied-up "wife", "Darling, I'm home". It is this humour that takes the film beyond mere thriller and elevates it to a masterpiece.
Victoria Abril is wonderful as the drug-addled Marina. She looks every bit the part of the confused captive but hiding something deep and troubling. She and Banderas complement each other perfectly but it is the supporting cast that give this movie a kick. Rossy de Palma is great as the eccentric drug dealer, Loles Leon fine shines as Marina's long-suffering sister who works hard at keeping her sister clean but most impressive of all is the character of Maximo, the wheelchair-bound director of Marina's film, "The Midnight Phamtom", whose attempts to seduce Marina are as unorthodox as Nicky's although most certainly less appealing.
At the box office the film did well in Europe but audiences were disappointing in the States. This has been attributed the censors rating; this is a highly erotic movie but much of this is implied rather than overt. Sex and nudity do feature but not to any gratuitous extent but it was the "unusual" scene in which Marina plays with a yellow submarine in the bath that shocked the American censors. Viewers considering a DVD purchase in Europe will be able to buy the uncut movie, those in America should try to get the unrated version.
Best described as a "romantic black comedy" (a "roblacom" if you will) this movie will make you laugh out loud but have your mind working overtime to work out the ending. Predictable it is not, throwing into confusion the tried and tested film formulas that dominate Hollywood today. Fans of Almodovar films will love it and I would recommend this to anyone liking something a bit offbeat - one film it puts me in mind of is "Secretary" (starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the kinky boss and his subservient yet smitten assistant) - a touch of romance, a soupcon of smut and bags of style and character. Bondage has never seemed so natural!
Available on DVD and video through the usual internet outlets at excellent prices.
Summary: An Almodovar classic - a Spanish success! Ole!