Since first emerging as one of Spanish director Pedro Almódovar’s muses during the height of La Movida – the 1980s countercultural movement that took place in Madrid following the death of Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, Mallorca-born actress and model Rossy de Palma has become an icon of Spanish cinema.
De Palma’s first major role came in 1988 in Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. She was originally a singer and dancer before being discovered by Almodóvar at a café in Madrid in 1986. She is best known for her roles in Law of Desire, Kika, The Flower of My Secret, and Julieta – all by Almodóvar. She also appeared in Robert Altman’s fashion industry satire, Prêt-à-Porter.
The 55-year-old actress has also been working in France in the modeling and fashion industry, where she released a perfume line under her own name. In 2009, she posed nude in an information campaign on breast cancer for the magazine Marie Claire and had sat on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. In 2018, de Palma starred at in Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote which was presented out of competition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
New Europe’s Federico Grandesso sat down with de Palma to talk about her experience as one of Almodóvar’s favourite sources of inspiration and her view of where the Oscar-winning director’s films fit into the lives of those who experience his storytelling skills. De Palma was in Venice during the annual film festival to attend the Mastercard “See Life Through a Different Lens” master-class with famed American director Brian De Palma, Italian Actress Valeria Golino, and Lebanese film director Nadine Labaki.
NE: What do you think about the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion Award being given to Pedro Almodóvar?
RP: It’s an affectionate feeling. Emotionally, it means a lot more than the Golden Lion, itself, because that’s just a metaphor for the love that everybody has for Pedro and all the films that he’s gave us. A lot of them opened both our minds and our hearts. After all these years that I’ve been close to him, I was always traveling and everybody from all over the world told me how what an amazing experience it is to have Pedro’s touch their lives. His films helped them to better understand themselves. In his films you can find marginality, homosexuality, and lots of interesting topics. Then you have all the women in his films, who are like survivors. Even if you go through a lot of traumatic events in life, Pedro’s films always have the capacity to be resilient, like a phoenix. With him you can erase your culpability and frustrations and never feel guilty because you have the right to make mistakes, to dream, and to feel free. I think the most important element in Pedro’s films is the sense of freedom that you can enjoy. He reminds you that even if you go through very bad times, you can still enjoy and embrace life in a very beautiful way.
NE: In your opinion, what are Pedro’s most successful qualities?
RP: Pedro always makes very local or specific things universal. He always knows the environment. We all are the same, all over the world, and that universality is Pedro. When he includes something very close to him, like his little village, he makes become something very universal for everyone.
NE: Can you tell me something about his directing style?
RP: He’s changed a lot. He is undergoing an evolution, like any creative person who has their own growing process. Pedro, for instance, has a very beautiful taste for music and books and also takes a lot information from real-life stories.
The film Talk to Her, for example, was a based on a true story about a man who was working in a hospital spoke to a woman who was in coma. This story was in the news, which Pedro read, and then he developed it into a project. For me, the key thing is the freedom to speak and the freedom to go into our own dramas and put them into something lighter. In this way, you’re not condemned to feel sad because life is complex and you have the right to embrace happiness. Even if things are deep or heavy, you should balance and still be able to embrace relativism and enjoy life like the Chinese dragon who is always fling away from troubles.
NE: Do you have a particular love for Asian culture and philosophy?
RP: Yes, I have a tattoo of an (Asian-style) dragon and I like Taoism because it is a philosophy that uses pure logic and is so coherent that you have understand its metaphors for nature, for example when something is full it means you have to make up space. Me, I feel like a very Taoist actress because when I play a character I disappear to make space for the character.