Filmed in the style of the screwball comedies of the 1950's, Pedro Almodovar's classic, "Women on the Verge of the Nervous Breakdown," is widely seen as the Spanish director's greatest directorial effort ever, due to his witty script, wonderful use of colors and schemes, and his ability to capture the range of emotions women possess.
The story, which revolves around a jilted woman (Carmen Maura in her final film collaboration with Almodovar) in search of her lover (Fernando Guillen) might sound like a melodrama at first, however if you mix in a bit of zany subplot and an array of classic characters, and you got yourself a comedy classic.
Pepa (Maura) finds out that her longtime lover Ivan has left her for another woman. Pepa, who works with Ivan dubbing foreign films into Spanish, discovers that she is expecting a child, and must convey this important message to Ivan in hopes of convincing him to return.
In her search for Ivan, she discovers that Ivan's ex-wife Lucia (Julieta Serrano) has been released from the asylum that has taken care of her since her breakup with Ivan. She also discovers that Ivan has a son (Antonio Banderas) she never was told about, and due to a series of coincidental encounters, they encounter each other.
Pepa doesn't seem to be the only person having love problems. Her best friend Candela (Maria Barranco) has discovered that her Arab boyfriend and his friends are actually Shiite terrorists planning to hijack the next flight to Stockholm. Scared, confused, and out of her mind, Candela finds refuge in Pepa's penthouse, and along with Pepa, Carlos (Banderas), and Carlos' fiance (Rossie de Palma), the madcap hysteria that will overtake the later half of the film takes place.
Using a wide selection of colors that benefit from the film's use of Technicolor, Almodovar has definitely creating a visual feats of patterns, objects (notice the clocks at the beginning), cityscapes (Madrid's famous skyline), and especially colors (as the main character, Pepa is identified by reds, which probably is Almodovar's tribute to American director Nicholas Ray and his famous use of Technicolor red in the classic "Rebel Without a Cause"). Other eye-catching objects that make this film truly wonderful include Candela's coffeepot earrings (they became a major fashion accessory in Spain and Latin America in the early 1990's) and the campy cab decor that the driver of the Mambo Taxi (Guillermo Montesinos) has adopted for his cab.
Almodovar also adopted a wide selection of beautiful and popular music and songs to tell his story. "Soy Infeliz," by Lola Beltran and "Puro Teatro," by La Lupe are eternal classics thanks to this film. His selection of the rarely heard, yet beautiful compositions by Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov ("The Story of the Kalandar Prince" from Scheherezade-Symphonic Suite, Op. 35 AND the "Fandango Asturiano," from Capriccio Espagnol. Op. 34) gives the film both a feeling of relaxation and fiery anger.
"Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," marks a totally new direction in Spanish cinema. The end of the censorship that was widely well known during the Franco regime of the past allowed Almodovar and many new Spanish directors to explore filmmaking without any restrictions. This film, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 1989, went on to win many awards including several Goya awards (Spain's highest film awards) and Maura went on to win Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. Truly, this was her greatest role, and Almodovar knew that he wanted to give his audience a major overdose of Maura that the audience will likely beg for more. He was right, and Maura's performance is considered to be one of the greatest performances by non-English speaking actress in recent years.
If you're looking for an amazing, funny, and visual film, then "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is the best choice to fulfill your search. I have seen this movie over 30 times, and I can't get tired of it. It is a true cult classic, and it only illustrates the genius that Almodovar is. The DVD edition contains English, French, and Spanish subtitles and the film's promotional trailers.