MOVIE REVIEW : 'Labyrinth of Passion' a Glimpse of Almodovar

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pedro Almodovar's 1982 "Labyrinth of Passion" (at the Nuart) views sexual and romantic hang-ups with that same tonic sense of absurdity that characterizes all his work. In this early comedy, he scatters his attention over some 50 characters, most of whom are caught up in his or her own Angst . The film is often amusing, but it's not nearly as involving as his subsequent, more focused pictures.

Everything more or less revolves around two young women. One is Sexilia (Cecilia Roth), inevitably known as Sexi, who is the nymphomaniacal daughter of an eminent "biogynecologist" who views sex with such distaste as to specialize in artificial insemination. The other is Queti (Marta Fernandez-Muro), the daughter of a dry cleaner, with whom she reluctantly has an incestuous relationship. When Sexilia and Queti become friends, they begin to plot in earnest. Caught up in the many and varied sexual shenanigans are the elegant, imperious ex-Empress Toraya of Tiran (Helga Line) and her successor's son, the crown prince Riza Niro Zahlevi (Imanoel Arias), who seems to prefer men to women. Antonio Banderas, star of Almodovar's current "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!," has a small role as a member of a Tiranian rock group.

Almodovar sends up Freudian seriousness in regard to sex hilariously and even appears (in drag) in front of the camera singing a couple of raunchy songs. Avid Almodovar admirers won't want to miss "Labyrinth of Passion" (Times-rated Mature), which is far longer on talk than action, but it's another of those films that are of greater interest for what they portend than for what they actually accomplish.

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