The curious spectator watches Almodóvar’s films and tries to recognise the various locations around the city. Some have become iconic symbols of the director’s universe. Others, on the other hand, are not easily recognisable. These are some interesting anecdotes about some of the hundreds of locations which make up Almodóvar’s Madrid.
The M-30 Houses
At the end of What Have I done to Deserve This?, the camera pans away from the enormous blocks of flats where the main characters live, gradually fading away into the ocean of buildings of the big city. The three blocks are located alongside the M-30, close to the mosque, in the La Concepción neighbourhood. Almodóvar had first noticed them years earlier: “When I used to work in a Telefonica warehouse, close to Fuencarral, I would drive down the M-30 every day. I was always struck by those enormous hives at the side of the motorway”.
Seductive looks and a lot of flirting at this cafeteria, now known as Wooster (Duque de Alba, 3), in El Rastro. It is a legendary spot on the Madrid Scene and plays an essential role in Labyrinth of Passion. It is the setting for the opening scene and the torrid encounter between the two main characters played by Imanol Arias and Cecilia Roth.
Conde Duque Barracks
(Conde Duque, 9) “Water me! Don’t be shy”. This is one of his most famous scenes. The character played by Carmen Maura asks a municipal worker to provide some respite from the suffocating summer heat in Law of Desire.
La Calle de Arenal
Almodóvar shot the ending of Live Flesh on Calle Arenal, taking advantage of the Christmas decorations. One of the shots was going to include the Museo del Jamón located at the beginning of the street. The director shot the scene incognito from inside a van, and the street was full of pedestrians and extras hired for the occasion. When he examined the takes after several hours of shooting, Almodóvar realised that there was a man waiting at the door of the bar in every single shot. “I suppose he’d arranged to meet someone who never turned up”. The man in question was wearing glasses, and can be seen briefly at the end of the film.
Almodóvar’s journey through Madrid has little in common with that taken by the tour buses. There are a couple of exceptions: the Plaza Mayor in The Flower of My Secret. And above all, the night panorama over the Puerta de Alcalá which serves as a backdrop to the opening credits of Live Flesh.
A Cardboard City
In Kika, the director did very little filming in recognisable locations. Nonetheless, he did include certain symbols of the city. In one of the rooms in the house, there are cardboard models of the Madrid Tower, the Kio Towers and the Europa Tower. Yet more cardboard: the decorative landscape in the background of Veronica Forque’s apartment is a model of the Picasso Tower. The Picasso Tower is seen again in Broken Embraces: the view from the office where the tycoon, played by José Luís Gómez, works.
Cemeteries, Trains and Airports
The most frequent locations in Almodóvar’s films are the cemetery of La Almudena, and Madrid-Barajas Airport. Always aware of the new developments in the city, in Kika, the director shot in the new AVE station in Atocha, with the arrival of Peter Coyote on the luxury train. Some years later, in All About My Mother, Cecilia Roth travelled between Madrid and Barcelona by AVE. However, Almodóvar was ahead of the times; the AVE had not yet reached the Catalan capital.
Museo Chicote Cocktail Bar
One of the main scenes in Broken Embraces was shot in this legendary cocktail bar (Gran Vía, 12) which has been visited by the brightest Spanish and international stars. If the walls of Chicote could talk they would tell us how Ava Gardner seduced the renowned bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín. In Broken Embraces, Blanca Portillo plays a character, who, aided by G&Ts, reveals the truth, which had remained hidden for so many years.
Crown of Thorns
The headquarters of the Spanish Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (El Greco, 4. Ciudad Universitaria), known as the Crown of Thorns, is the venue for the revengeful character played by Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In to give a conference. Architect Richard Rogers described the building as "creative and energetic in every way, down to the last detail". Designed by architects Fernando Higueras and Antonio Miró in an organic style, its construction started in the mid 60s. Almodóvar chose to shoot that part of the film there because he felt it added much expressiveness to the scene.
This is an example of Madrid’s rationalist style in the 1930’s (although it wasn’t opened until 1949) applied to the city’s infrastructures. The viaduct links the Royal Palace and the area of Vistillas. The people of Madrid associate it with suicide. This relationship with death was evident in Matador, a film about passion taken to the extreme and particularly in his latest film, I’m So Excited, a provocative comedy, filmed almost entirely in the studio, in which the character played by Paz Vega is the involved in a suicide attempt in this spot.
Other “Almodovar” Streets and Corners
Calle Montalbán, 7. The seventh floor attic was home to Pepa (Carmen Maura) in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.. The Gran Vía skyline with the towering Telefónica building can be seen in the background.
Calle Almagro, 38. Home to the family of Antonio Banderas in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Calle de Sevilla, 3. Casa de Kika en Kika.
Villa Rosa (Plaza de Santa Ana, 15). Establishment in which the drag queen, Miguel Bosé, performed in High Heels.
Teatro María Guerrero (calles Tamayo y Baus). Theatre in which Marisa Paredes sang in High Heels.
Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes (calle Alcalá, 42). Place where Victoria Abril and Peter Coyote met to discuss the script in Kika.
Plaza del Alamillo. Setting for the basement- caretaker’s house where Marisa Paredes lived in High Heels.
Plaza de Puerta de Moros. Place where the character of Leo (Marisa Paredes) tries to remove her ankle boots at the beginning of The Flower of My Secret.
Paseo de Eduardo Dato, 18. Home to Javier Bardem and Francesca Neri in Live Flesh.
Calle Segovia. The character played by Lluis Homar in Broken Embraces lives in this area under the Viaduct.
Cock (calle Reina, 16).Tamar Navas, worked here as a disc-jockey in Broken Embraces.
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