The power of Tilda Swinton can convince many an international director to make the foray into English-language features. Swinton has partnered with Bong Joon-ho and Luca Guadagnino in English-language projects, and now she has worked her ethereal magic on Pedro Almodóvar, who will make his first English-language project in his 46-year career with a short film starring the actress and a dog. The Pain and Glory director is preparing to make his first English-language feature following the short film starring Swinton, which will act as a sort of testing ground for the Spanish auteur’s foray into the English language.
IndieWire got the scoop on Almodóvar’s two next projects, which will mark his first effort making English language movies. The first will be a short film starring Tilda Swinton and a dog, which will ease Almodóvar into making his long-awaited English feature debut, an adaptation of the late American writer Lucia Berlin’s short story collection, “A Manual for Cleaning Women.”
The Spanish director has flirted with the idea of directing an English-language movie before, with offers to direct Sister Act in the early ’90s to his adaptation of Alice Munro’s Julieta, which was originally set to star Meryl Streep. But in Almodóvar’s 46 years of directing, he has stuck by the Spanish language — until now.
We can credit Tilda Swinton, who will be starring in Almodóvar’s next project, a short film based on the Jean Cocteau one-act play The Human Voice, for this late-career shift. Almodóvar has had a long interest in the play, having been inspired by the play’s premise of one woman’s final phone conversation with her lover to write his Oscar-nominated 1988 breakout film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. But now he hopes to modernize the story with the help of Swinton, who had been an actress the director had long dreamed of working with. The short now revolves around Swinton’s character and her dog.
“You need that feeling that someone understands you completely,” Almodóvar told IndieWire. “In the case of Tilda, it was exactly how I dreamed of her. She’s so open, so intelligent. She gave me a lot of confidence with the logic. In the rehearsal, we understood each other very closely.”
Almodóvar plans to shoot The Human Voice, which he wrote in Spanish and had translated, this April in Madrid on a soundstage with an original set. The filmmaker refers to the project as “very personal” and “a kind of visual experiment for me.” The short will be a testing ground of sorts for Almodóvar’s feature-length English debut and “a means of getting the filmmaker used to the challenges of shooting in another language.”
Almodóvar has proven a master of melodrama, especially with his introspective masterwork Pain & Glory, anchored by a shattering performance by his longtime collaborator, Antonio Banderas. Can the English-speaking world handle that level of emotion and depth of feeling? We’ll have to see. In the meantime, do yourselves a favor and go see Pain & Glory.
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