One of the splashiest debuts of the upcoming, and notably reduced, fall festival scene is Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Human Voice.” His first English-language project is a short film, shot in Madrid in July in full PPE regalia, starring Tilda Swinton as a woman who needs to make an important phone call. The director’s brother and production partner Agustín Almodóvar, via their El Deseo banner, tweeted tantalizing first footage from the film this week. See below.
“The Human Voice” is based on a one-act play by Jean Cocteau, written in 1928 and first mounted in France in 1930. It concerns one woman’s final phone conversation with her longtime lover, who has plans to marry another woman. The clip shows Swinton looking sad in a dazzling red ball gown, compelled behind an opaque sheet by the strings of Almodóvar’s longtime musical collaborator Alberto Iglesias. This woman has something on her mind.
Almodóvar previously alluded to interest in the material before, including as inspiration for his Oscar-nominated 1988 breakout “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Almodóvar told IndieWire back in February that for “The Human Voice,” he worked with Swinton to update aspects of the story, where the character attempts to convince her partner not to leave her. “We worked with her to see if it would be correct for her to say this or that,” he said. “I thought that there is not any kind of woman who can behave like this because it’s very old-fashioned. That mentality doesn’t exist.”
Shot by DP José Luis Alcaine, this is the 70-year-old Almodóvar’s first foray into a full-on English-language movie, and his first film since 2019’s Cannes-winning “Pain and Glory.” For Almodóvar, “The Human Voice” is a kind of primer for working in English, as he’s also toiling away on an English-language feature adaptation of Lucia Berlin’s cult-favorite short story collection, “A Manual for Cleaning Women.”
Check out the first footage for “The Human Voice,” which premieres at the Venice Film Festival, out of competition on September 3. The short will also be presented at the New York Film Festival later in September.
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