The Human Voice

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It’s not often a director remakes their own film, and even rarer for a feature to be reimagined in short form. Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and The Human Voice both share as their source material Jean Cocteau’s one-act monodrama La Voix Humaine. With a flip of ​​the proverbial, “Speech is silver, silence is golden,” the first third of Almodóvar’s free-handed 30 minute redo plays out sans dialogue — give or take the words needed for the woman (Tilda Swinton) to purchase an axe from her local hardware store. The concluding 15 minutes are spent in monologic debate, a one-sided phone conversation between the woman and her (unheard) lover of four years. It’s hard for Tilda to compete with the campy set dressing and DVD covers. At times, I paid more attention to the lofty loft and the woman’s taste in books and DVDs (a Douglas Sirk twofer!) than I did its occupant. The stage version ends with the depressed diva savagely strangled by her phone cord, while the shortened modern dress version takes a last-minute detour. With nary a land-line in sight, Almodovar closes with a stylistic tailwind that spares the woman’s life while choking the narrative impact. Apart from Swinton’s performance, two things stand out: playful opening credits spelled out in fonts designed from hardware store items and answering the question of who gets custody of the dog. (2021) — Scott Marks

Rated R | 0 hour, 30 minutes
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