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Madrid according to Pedro Almodóvar

New guidebook to filming locations used in director’s movies offers unique view of Spanish capital

Actress Carmen Maura as Pepa in 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'.
Actress Carmen Maura as Pepa in 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'.

“Take me to López Ibor Clinic: that’s where I live,” says Lucía, the most unbalanced of all the main characters in Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s acclaimed and much-loved 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

The medical center, which bears the name of the most important psychiatrist in Spain during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, is the residence for the character played by Julieta Serrano – who has starred in other Almodóvar films including Dark Habits and Matador. And the clinic also features in a new guidebook to Madrid  through the filming locations used by the most famous modern Spanish movie director.

Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar.
Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar.

El Madrid de Almodóvar (Almodóvar’s Madrid) is a guide to the metropolis through the prism of the restaurants, museums, shops and oddities of the Spanish capital that appear in the films of a director who has become synonymous with the city and with the Movida – the Madrid countercultural movement during the transition to democracy after the death of Franco.

The author of this guidebook is Madrid native Sacha Azcona, who has worked in the publishing industry for 15 years. One afternoon he was watching the 2004 film Bad Education when one of the scenes caught his eye. “I looked online and I realized that lots of people were interested in where many of the scenes in Almodóvar’s movies had been shot.” After discovering the Tyris movie theater in Valencia (now closed), Azcona went in search of other Almodóvar locations, and particularly those of his native Madrid.

“I watched all of his films to identify streets, stores and buildings,” he explains from the terrace of The Principal hotel, just off Madrid’s iconic Gran Vía thoroughfare. This is the view from the attic apartment of Pepa, played by Spanish actress Carmen Maura in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. “Almodóvar cheated and put the Telefónica building in there, a wink to his previous job,” explains Azcona, alluding to the days when the director from Spain’s Castilla–La Mancha region used to work as an administrative assistant with Spain’s state-owned telephone company.

Azcona put together a list of location sites and then thought the guidebook experience would be more satisfying if he also described the surrounding neighborhoods. “I take advantage of the route to recommend places in each area. Almodóvar films in four or five main areas of downtown Madrid. And many places appear over and over again,” he explains. This is why he has focused on the central districts of Chueca, Malasaña, Conde Duque, Salamanca and Centro, although some out-of-the-way locations like Almudena cemetery and the working-class district of Vallecas also get a nod.

Sacha Azcona on the terrace of The Principal hotel which features in 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.' ampliar foto
Sacha Azcona on the terrace of The Principal hotel which features in 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.'

“I even lived in one of these locations myself,” Azcona says mysteriously. “It was in the convent from (the 1983 film) Dark Habits,” he reveals, speaking about the religious building in Chueca’s Pelayo street.

But despite his zeal to enter into the world of Almodóvar, El Deseo – the production company behind his films, which is jointly owned by the director and his brother Agustín – decided not to get involved. “I showed the book to Agustín Almodóvar and he said he liked it very much, but they decided not to be a part of it,” explained Azcona.

Azcona’s book is printed to order by Amazon. When the company is notified of a sale, it runs off a copy and delivers it within 24 hours. This way of doing things means the book is a “living thing.”

“If we want to make changes to the original, say because there is a new Almodóvar film out, we can do this. The book is very comfortable to use, both in the digital version and in the paper format. And if you download the latest version you can use your mobile to find the movie locations,” Azcona explains.

English version by George Mills.

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