Almodóvar loves genres: combining them, mostly. This one is a clashing of melodrama (of the telenovela sort), noir, thriller, tragedy, and probably others. He loves his women as perhaps gay men like him and Ozon do best; he’s no Tarantino, re-imaging and re-imagining women from an earlier vein to suit a very contemporary mashup more suited to pleasuring male rather than female viewers. Kill Bill may be empowering at some level, but it works more efficiently as sadomasochistic viewing pleasure for men, just like Inglourious Basterds may “empower” Jews but more than that gives non-Holocaust non-Jews something to whoop and holler about. (Read memoirs from concentration camp survivors and they’re not typically fantasizing about mowing down Hitler. They just wanted to go home.) Most women aren’t samurai, and most Jews don’t kill Nazis. Pepa in Women on the Verge never does have a “nervous breakdown,” since her superficial insanity is driven by survival in a world that’s truly insane. Who keeps Pepa together, though? Pepa does. As in Volver, men are rather non-issues here in terms of the actual social/power dynamic. They’re necessary to the narrative but unnecessary to the film. The world works in a certain ridiculous way – fate, chance, whatever – that drives women close to insanity while men tend just to float along idly or sidestep crises lazily. The women are garbed in drag queen outfits and shot in overlit colors that glory in their own artificiality. This emphasizes the façade of the world, the temptation to judge based on appearances whether glamorous or dark. The men, however, are boring on the surface and below it. As is customary in Almodóvar, there’s a film within, and the characters’ interactions with that micro-film foreshadows that in Broken Embraces: lip-synching to mute images, transfixed to the screen and subserviently fusing to it. Slicing tomatoes, making gazpacho, and one perfidia after another connect an ensemble of persons forced together by happenstance and misunderstandings. Almodóvar presumably made a film like this to relate more to the female condition (if it may be so called) rather than imagine something way beyond it via Tarantino-like fantasies. What’s more empowering than contextualizing, rendering transparent and multi-dimensional, a condition that appears to be a sickness? So we have a comic celebration of women overcoming a bizarre and inexplicable world despite men rather than because of them.