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DARK HABITS (DARK HIDEOUT) (ENTRE TINIEBLAS) (director/writer: Pedro Almodovar; cinematographer: Angel Fernandez; editor: Jose Salcedo; music: Cam Espano; cast: Cristina Sánchez Pascual (Yolanda Bell), Julieta Serrano (Mother Superior Julia), Mary Carrillo (Marquesa), Carmen Maura (Sister Damned), Marisa Paredes (Sister Manure), Chus Lampreave (Sister Sewer Rat), Lina Canalejas (Sister Snake), Manuel Zarzo (Chaplain), Eva Siva (Antonia), Cecilia Roth (Merche), Willmore (Jorge); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Luis Calco; Tesauro; 1983-Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)
It’s all kitsch and no substance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Second-rate irreverent campy comedy by writer-director Pedro Almodovar (“Kiki”/”The Law of Desire”/”Matador”) that exploits the church’s hypocrisies over seeking redemption from sin. It’s all kitsch and no substance, with a tasteless childish humor geared for the undemanding. This was the director’s third feature, and showed flashes of his film-making talent depicted in his later films. But the pic is too labored, sophomoric and slight to compare it with a Bunuel witty riff on the church, as intended.

When sultry drug addict nightclub singer Yolanda Bell’s (Cristina Sánchez Pascual) drug pusher boyfriend ODs, she goes on the run to hide from the cops in a weird Madrid convent called Convent of Humble Redeemers. The Mother Superior (Julieta Serrano), a masturbating, lesbian, heroin-addict, gives her the best cell in the convent, the one where the nun Virginia lived in before going on a missionary to Africa where she was eaten by cannibals.

The convent was once a popular haven for housing sinners such as prostitutes, murderers and addicts, but is now empty after its benefactor dies and his selfish widow, the mother of Virginia, the Marquesa (Mary Carrillo), refuses to fund it anymore. With no one to save, the nuns who were given humiliating names by the Mother Superior, such as Sister Rat (Chus Lampreave), Sister Manure (Marisa Paredes), Sister Damned (Carmen Maura), and Sister Snake (Lina Canalejas), revert to their old sinful ways. Sister Damned is a clean freak who swoon’s over the convent’s pet tiger, Sister Manure is an acid head who bakes LSD-laced cakes and hallucinates, Sister Rat pens trashy love novels under a pseudonym, and Sister Snake sews high-fashion dresses to cover all the convent statues of the Virgin Mary and confesses her love for the priest (Manuel Zarzo) while he is hearing her confession. They all try to gain Yolanda’s favor in the hopes of getting credit for reforming her, but in this amoral flick things turn out not to go according to the usual ways the church suppresses desires to conquer the souls of its followers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”