Each year, for four years now, The Museum of Modern Art honors a filmmaker of singular importance and influence at a benefit event in support of MoMA’s Department of Film and its exhibition and collection activities. This year we looked for a cinema artist who has been a part of MoMA’s family for long stretches of their career. Pedro Almodóvar fit this description perfectly. He had his U.S. debut in our annual showcase of emerging film talent, New Directors/New Films (organized with the Film Society of Lincoln Center), with his 1984 film What Have I Done to Deserve This?, and he has screened many of his films at the Museum since. When we saw his new film, The Skin I Live In, we knew the moment was right to honor Pedro. Here is an artist at the top of his game, willing to take risks and change direction. The result is a remarkably accomplished and mature work. Tuesday night was a celebration of Pedro as an artist and innovator.
I’ve been asked which of Pedro’s movies I think are the most important. I’m sure the answer will be different in the U.S. than in Spain or other parts of the world, but for me What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Matador, and Law of Desire provide the early proof of his talent and adventurousness. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! were crucial breakthrough pictures in the U.S., and his Oscar winners All About My Mother and Talk to Her confirmed his status as a monumental international director. His latest film, which is doing well on screens across the country, is also key in terms of propelling him in new directions.
So why did New York’s best and brightest celebrate Pedro? New York is a city of infinite possibility. It’s a place where you’d be a fool judge an individual based on their background or nonconformity. Pedro’s films have always celebrated the outsider, the underdog, and the passionate. It seems to me that there could be no better place to embrace him and his work than the city of opportunity and diversity that is New York.
During the event we screened the tribute reel above, produced by Erin McKnight and Sean Egan, which celebrates themes and signature moments from Pedro’s films. I love the sequence on family violence (as dramatic as you wish you could be with your own loved ones once in a while) and the music. Pedro’s films always bring you a tear and a laugh, and leave you with a song engrained in your heart. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.