La Agrado's Monologue -Any narration is a monologue, if it is told out loud and in first person. And every monologue possesses dramatic force if you can manage to make the interlocutor listen attentively (even if he falls asleep).

The monologue is based on the word. On several words said by the same person, without being interrupted by another character. It belongs more to the theatre, more for reasons of age, I suppose, the theatre being older than film. For me, and I say it in an arbitrary way, its equivalent in film is the close-up, with or without dialogue. And it is a powerful weapon, forceful but risky because it does not admit lying.

Although film is the art of artifice, both the monologue and the close-up only work in absolute nakedness and sometimes by the art of magic. In the monologue silence matters as much as words, the mouth as much as the eyes. And it is a privilege of the Great (actors).

I would include amongst the monologuists: the storyteller, the fair charlatan, the politician giving a speech, all sorts of speakers, the town criers, and those in confession. Those who pray. The grandfather who with or without a fireplace tells his grandchildren stories filled with adventures that he has lived through. Or the father (and the mother) who must hypnotize their woken son with a beautiful and somniferous story.

Pedro Almodovar with Antonia San Juan as AgradoAny narration is a monologue, if it is told out loud and in first person. And every monologue possesses dramatic force if you can manage to make the interlocutor listen attentively (even if he falls asleep). Agrado’s monologue is not told in close-up, or at least not all of the time, but it is said in the first person, and to what extent!

While Manuela takes care of Sister Rosa, Agrado takes charge of Huma Rojo and her lover Nina Cruz. Nina is addicted to heroin, which represents a true torture for Huma and a constant danger for the performance.

One afternoon, while she is preparing Huma’s dressing room, Agrado gets a call from the actress. There are fifteen minutes left before the beginning of the performance, but neither her or Nina are going to make it. They are in the hospital… The performance must be cancelled. In spite of her concern, Agrado organizes everything so that she´s the one to announce the cancellation to the audience who fills the orchestra seats. She has always dreamed of stepping onto a real stage. And this is her best opportunity.

At first she is rigid. The spotlight traps her like an insect in its white circle. It is a dizzying but
intoxicating sensation. The heterogeneous audience that almost fills the theatre wonders and mumbles what “that being“ is doing on stage.

Agrado takes a few seconds to explain it. Due to some unspecified illness that has befallen the two protagonists, the performance is cancelled. But… if anyone would like to stay (the others will get their money back ) she promises to entertain them telling them the story of her life. Stupor, mumbles and laughs.

Pedro Almodovar with Marisa Peredes as Huma RojoOnly a few leave. Agrado grows bolder, and proceeds to tell everything. Beginning with her name: “They call me La Agrado, because I have always tried to make everyones life more pleasant…“ On to her main source of income: “I used to work the streets, on bridges, near the cemetery…. Aside from being pleasant I am also very authentic.“ And without losing a minute, she starts to run down the full list of surgical operations she has undergone to be so authentic, along with their corresponding price in pesetas: “almond shaped eyes, 80 thousand, silicone in lips, forehead, cheeks, hips and ass… the liter costs sixty thousand pesetas… you add it up, because I stopped counting… Tits? Two. I’m no monster. Seventy each, but these have been fully depreciated.“

And so she goes on, to the great pleasure of the surprised spectators. Agrado finishes with an essential sentence: “It cost me a lot to be authentic. But we must not be cheap in regards to the way we look. Because a woman is more authentic the more she looks like what she has dreamed for herself.“

The theatre explodes. Agrado has conquered them.

Many years ago I learned of something similar which really happened in a theatre, and since
then I have wanted to put it in one of my films. The real anecdote happened to Lola Membibres in Argentina. The theatre’s electrical system failed, and at the time of her performance there was no light. There was no other alternative but to cancel (or was there?). Membibres, who was not easily set back, decided it would be herself who from the stage, lit only by a few candles, would announce the news to the audience:
“…Of course, we will give back the money from the tickets. But since you’re here, I would ask you to stay. To those who do, I promise I will entertain you telling you the story of my life.“

Nobody moved. And the actress began to talk.

That evening, Miss Lola Membibres did the performance of her life, and decades later inspired one of the funniest scenes in “All About My Mother.” Because in the film there is also humor, a lot of humor. Every time Agrado appears on the screen.