Pedro Almodóvar’s colorful and controversial tribute to the pleasures and perils of Stockholm syndrome, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is a rambunctious dark comedy starring Antonio Banderas as an unbalanced but alluring former mental patient and Victoria Abril as the B-movie and porn star he takes prisoner in the hopes of convincing her to marry him. A highly unconventional romance that came on the spike heels of Almodóvar’s international sensation Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, this is a splashy, sexy central work in the career of one of the world’s most beloved and provocative auteurs, radiantly shot by the director’s great cinematographer José Luis Alcaine.
I'm willing to bet you were unaware that before Antonio Banderas played Puss N Boots in the 'Shrek' movies, he was in a 1990 Pedro Almodovar film that was rated X -- which was later contested by the director and therefore received the first NC-17 rating. That movie is called 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!', and is a very dark comedy film about someone who comes from nothing and has nothing, who makes his future by doing very unorthodox and criminal things.
We all know that Almodovar does not shy away from controversial themes in his films, and most of his movies seem to all have a darker premise than the usual family friendly stuff that is put out week after week, but Almodovar has a unique way of adding a bit of dark humor and strong characters to make us fall for these flawed but real people. Antonio Banderas plays the main protagonist and antagonist all at the same time. And since Banderas is a household name now, usually paired with family films, it's very fun to watch him be a sadistic, yet gentle man who just wants to be a good person and be loved.
'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' follows a man named Ricky (Banderas), who grew up an orphan on the streets and resorted to stealing to make ends meet. He's been in a mental institution for quite some time and is finally being released into the world. But he has plan already to become a great individual, well at least in his mind. He is madly in love with a woman named Marina (Victoria Abril), who is a B-Movie actress, known for her earlier work as a porn actress, but is now making horror movies. Ricky's plan is to kidnap Marina, tie her up, and tell her that he will marry her and have her kids. The thing is, Marina has no idea who Rick is.
Marina's director (Francisco Viridiana), is an older man who is smitten with Marina, who secretly watches her old adult films when nobody is around, and is hoping to have one last fling. Here we see that Marina is quite a lonely woman, despite being a washed up actress and Ricky calmly working his way through his plan. After the filming wraps, Ricky follows Marina to her place and knocks on her door. She thinks he is just some fan who wants an autograph, but he forces his way in, she screams, and he headbutts her to knock her out. She wakes up with tape on her mouth and tied up on the bed. This is where Ricky tells her that he will marry her, have her children, and by the end of all this, she will truly love him.
At first, Marina and us the audience, couldn't conceive of even remotely thinking about loving someone like Ricky. However, as a little time passes, we see that he is truly in love with this woman, and that he would do anything for her. Since he knocked her out, she is in badly in need of some pain pills, but the ones she has are not strong enough, so they go to the doctor to try and ask for some medication. When that doesn't work, Ricky takes to the streets and asks some thugs for pain pills, which turns out more costly than originally planned.
Meanwhile, Marina's sister Lola (Loles Leon) and her director are worried about Marina going missing, since she is rarely left the house and goes to search for her. But it's from here that we see Marina beginning to fall for her captor Ricky through his loyal actions and their steamy sex scenes. I don't think this movie would have worked as well it did if it weren't for the excellent chemistry between Banderas and Abril. You will actually think the pair are a real life couple and are not acting during their more intimate scenes. They're that good in it, and it's their performances that drive this film.
And of course, Almodovar's signature style is used here with very bright colors used in ever scene, as if to intensify each mood and tone as the film plays out. It's simply gorgeous to watch. Let's not forget Ennio Morricone's score is simply remarkable. 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' is one Pedro Almodovar film you can't miss. Not to mention you can brag to your friends you that you saw an Antonio Banderas movie that was rated X.
'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. According to Criterion, this is a new digital transfer that was created in 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative in Madrid. Pedro Almodovar himself supervised the transfer along with Augustin Almodovar. This is quite an impressive looking image and has definitely been upgraded since it was last released on home video. The detail is amazing with great closeups that reveal individual hairs on the actor's faces and each scar that Ricky gets from his fights. The props in the background are finely detailed as well and gives the image a lot of depth.
The colors are simply magnificent, and with this high definition release, they simply pop off screen. This is one of the more vibrant movies I've seen in a while, considering this is a movie that is twenty-four years old. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. The organic fine layer of grain keeps the film in that great filmic look, rather than making it look like it went through the digital carwash. There arsome small instances of some flickering at the start of the film, but it clears up soon after that, and all debris and dirt have been removed -- leaving this video presentation with top marks.
This release comes with a Spanish lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix with some excellent English subtitles. The dialogue is always crystal clear, crisp, and easy to follow. Each voice is well balanced and is never overly loud or screechy. The sound effects all sound lively when available and the ambient noises do sound off through the rear speakers from time to time.
However, this is more of a front heavy audio track with a lot of dialogue. The score sounds impressive here too, which you'll be able to distinguish different instruments as the songs play out. It always adds to the tone and mood of the film without drowning out any of the dialogue or sound effects. Lastly, there are no instances of any pops, cracks, or hissing, giving this audio presentation great marks.
'Untied! Reflections on Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (HD, 29 mins.) - This is an awesome documentary that was made for this release in 2014 and has new interviews with Almodovar himself, Banderas, Abril, and other producers and actors from the film. They all discuss making the film back in 1990, the X rating, the story, the filming, and how the movie is viewed now. What a great bonus feature.
Interview With Pedro and Antonio (HD, 27 mins.) - This conversation between Almodovar and Banderas took place in 2003, as they sit down as talk about their work on the film. The go over his directing style, the themes of the movie, and some inside information on the making of the film. This is great.
Interview With Michael Barker (HD, 15 mins.) - Barker is the co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics, and he discusses his relationship with Almodovar and his film resume. He goes into detail about each film and how well each of them did.
'Resistire' (HD, 4 mins.) - Here is a cool little feature that shows a clip from the premiere of the movie in 1989 in Madrid where the cast and crew sing a song in front of a large audience. Pretty cool.
Trailer (HD, 3 mins.) - The original theatrical trailer.
Criterion Booklet - A 26 page booklet that gives us information on the technical specs of the movie, the cast and crew info, and some essays on the director and his films.
'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down' is one hell of a film. It is well written and well directed. The performances by Banderas and Abril prove that these actors are A-List actors. It's a strange and absurd tale, but it is one of heart. You haven't seen anything like it. The video and audio presentations are both top notch, with some excellent extras. Again, Criterion has knocked this release out of the park. Highly Recommended!