Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!


1h 41m 1990
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Brief Synopsis

A young man kidnaps a porn star to win her love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Attache-Moi!, Fessle Mich!, Legami!
MPAA Rating
NC-17
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Erotic
Foreign
Romance
Release Date
1990
Distribution Company
CINEPLEX ODEON FILMS/MIRAMAX
Location
Madrid, Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m

Synopsis

Determined to create an ideal family for himself, an orphaned mental patient kidnaps a recovering drug addict/porn star in an irrationally inspired bid for love. Convinced that if she only knew him, the lunatic Ricky is as much captive as captor, imprisoned by his desire for the beautiful actress.

Film Details

Also Known As
Attache-Moi!, Fessle Mich!, Legami!
MPAA Rating
NC-17
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Erotic
Foreign
Romance
Release Date
1990
Distribution Company
CINEPLEX ODEON FILMS/MIRAMAX
Location
Madrid, Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m

Articles

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!


After winning over most of the film-loving world with his breakout, Oscar-nominated comedy hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), director Pedro Almodóvar had moviegoers waiting with bated breath to see what he would come up with next. Repertory theaters and video companies were scrambling to bring his candy-colored previous films to English-speaking viewers, and soon it became obvious that Women was, to put it mildly, more genteel than previous button-pushing titles like Matador (1986) and Law of Desire (1987). Filled with unabashed sexuality and sometimes shocking violence, these films cemented the filmmaker's reputation as Spain's champion visual stylist and its most unpredictable, dangerous talent at large. However, no one could have anticipated what would happen next.

Immediately after the success of Women on the Verge, Almodóvar was offered a deal at Disney with talent agency ICM eager to sign him on. He declined and went back to Spain, deciding against making a film in English or in Hollywood. He would only change his mind later when he attempted to film an adaptation of Peter Dexter's 1995 novel The Paperboy, a process that would be protracted for a decade before the film ended up being directed by Lee Daniels in 2012. The next Almodóvar film was announced as Átame!, which was translated for English marketing as Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989) with up and coming indie distributor Miramax jumping in early to release the film in the United States.

On July 4, 1989, Almodóvar published an article in Spain's largest newspaper, El País, about his film the day before production began, calling it "a love story, or rather a story of how someone attempts to construct a love story in the same way as he might study for a degree: by means of effort, will power, and persistence. Can passion be sketched out in advance; can it be calculated and brought about in another? When you have nothing, like my main character, you have to force everything. Including love." That main character is Ricky, played by Antonio Banderas in his fifth Almodóvar collaboration. After being released from a mental institution (where he enjoyed an ongoing sexual relationship with his doctor!), Ricky immediately plans to win over a "junkie porno actress" named Marina (Victoria Abril) with whom he shared a memorable one-night stand several years earlier. He believes he loves her and can convince her to love him, too, as he stakes out her latest project, a lurid horror melodrama on which Marina's sister, Lola (Loles León), is working behind the scenes. Ricky manages to abduct Marina and keep her bound in her apartment, which starts a highly unorthodox romance as Lola becomes suspicious about her missing sister's whereabouts.

Though the title and subject matter led many to assume the film was a commentary on S&M relationships, the writer-director insisted otherwise in press interviews. "The ropes have nothing to do with violence or S&M," he said in an interview with Marcia Pally for Cineast. "They are a simple - maybe too simple - metaphor for coexistence. Any commitment makes demands on you and limits your liberty. A career or relationship will include things you don't like, but you can't live without these bonds, these ties. You must admit that when you accept a commitment, when you seek it out, you are seeking certain restraints. In this sense, my heroine's decision is rational. The guy is hardly perfect, but if she wants his love she must accept him as he is. This doesn't mean that we don't fight to change things in a relationship. But you must know that most things don't change. You measure what you accept until it becomes too negative and then you leave. If you stay, don't lie to yourself."

Borne out of an earlier Almodóvar treatment called The Toxic Woman, the film raised eyebrows with its portrayal of a deeply flawed woman who falls in love with her captor, who even slaps and head butts her in a moment of panic to keep her from screaming. In his Pally discussion, he offered a very different interpretation of the story's treatment of its leading female characters: "It's the triumph of matriarchy, in the best sense of the word. The young man is looking for love and family, but in the last act it's the woman who decides yes or no. She and her sister set the conditions." Though many noted similarities between this film and John Fowles' The Collector (and its 1965 film adaptation by William Wyler), the ultimate outcome is, if anything, more reflective of Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967) with its "what next?" theme of romantic but terrified uncertainty in the closing frames, setting the pace for haunting open-ended resolutions to many of the filmmaker's later works.

With its mixture of dangerous sexual politics, an unforgettable image of Marina enjoying a toy scuba diver in the bathtub, and a lengthy, heavy-breath sex scene, the film would have gotten a mixed response from the press in any case, but it also happened to be submitted to the MPAA just as a national discussion was erupting around the X rating. The only U.S. certification not under the legal ownership of the MPAA, the rating had become synonymous with hardcore pornography even when it was slapped on films that featured non-explicit content that simply went beyond the bounds of what was considered acceptable for an R rating. Both this film and another Miramax release, Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), were given X ratings and denied on appeal. An MPAA rating was considered desirable to get the films advertised more widely and played in more culturally conservative theaters, but Miramax decided to open the films unrated and started a very high-profile battle with the MPAA including a court case over this particular film, saying it cast the title in a bad light and jeopardized plans for an American remake (which never came to pass). This would be the first lawsuit against the modern MPAA rating system, and though Miramax ultimately lost, it led to the creation of the new NC-17 rating, which was subsequently applied to both Miramax films and would first appear theatrically applied to Philip Kaufman's Henry & June (1990). Though he would soon come to be regarded as one of the greatest living directors on the world cinematic stage, Almodóvar would continue to battle the MPAA over the NC-17 ratings given to his even more provocative Kika (1993), his first film after a two-title run at Miramax, and his stylish modern film noir, Bad Education (2004). However, with the initial controversy now long subsided and its once-shocking content now long surpassed at the art house many times over, it's much easier to appreciate Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! as a vital and surprisingly touching transitional film in a career whose films are all tied to each other in ways we have yet to fully realize.

By Nathaniel Thompson
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

After winning over most of the film-loving world with his breakout, Oscar-nominated comedy hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), director Pedro Almodóvar had moviegoers waiting with bated breath to see what he would come up with next. Repertory theaters and video companies were scrambling to bring his candy-colored previous films to English-speaking viewers, and soon it became obvious that Women was, to put it mildly, more genteel than previous button-pushing titles like Matador (1986) and Law of Desire (1987). Filled with unabashed sexuality and sometimes shocking violence, these films cemented the filmmaker's reputation as Spain's champion visual stylist and its most unpredictable, dangerous talent at large. However, no one could have anticipated what would happen next. Immediately after the success of Women on the Verge, Almodóvar was offered a deal at Disney with talent agency ICM eager to sign him on. He declined and went back to Spain, deciding against making a film in English or in Hollywood. He would only change his mind later when he attempted to film an adaptation of Peter Dexter's 1995 novel The Paperboy, a process that would be protracted for a decade before the film ended up being directed by Lee Daniels in 2012. The next Almodóvar film was announced as Átame!, which was translated for English marketing as Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989) with up and coming indie distributor Miramax jumping in early to release the film in the United States. On July 4, 1989, Almodóvar published an article in Spain's largest newspaper, El País, about his film the day before production began, calling it "a love story, or rather a story of how someone attempts to construct a love story in the same way as he might study for a degree: by means of effort, will power, and persistence. Can passion be sketched out in advance; can it be calculated and brought about in another? When you have nothing, like my main character, you have to force everything. Including love." That main character is Ricky, played by Antonio Banderas in his fifth Almodóvar collaboration. After being released from a mental institution (where he enjoyed an ongoing sexual relationship with his doctor!), Ricky immediately plans to win over a "junkie porno actress" named Marina (Victoria Abril) with whom he shared a memorable one-night stand several years earlier. He believes he loves her and can convince her to love him, too, as he stakes out her latest project, a lurid horror melodrama on which Marina's sister, Lola (Loles León), is working behind the scenes. Ricky manages to abduct Marina and keep her bound in her apartment, which starts a highly unorthodox romance as Lola becomes suspicious about her missing sister's whereabouts. Though the title and subject matter led many to assume the film was a commentary on S&M relationships, the writer-director insisted otherwise in press interviews. "The ropes have nothing to do with violence or S&M," he said in an interview with Marcia Pally for Cineast. "They are a simple - maybe too simple - metaphor for coexistence. Any commitment makes demands on you and limits your liberty. A career or relationship will include things you don't like, but you can't live without these bonds, these ties. You must admit that when you accept a commitment, when you seek it out, you are seeking certain restraints. In this sense, my heroine's decision is rational. The guy is hardly perfect, but if she wants his love she must accept him as he is. This doesn't mean that we don't fight to change things in a relationship. But you must know that most things don't change. You measure what you accept until it becomes too negative and then you leave. If you stay, don't lie to yourself." Borne out of an earlier Almodóvar treatment called The Toxic Woman, the film raised eyebrows with its portrayal of a deeply flawed woman who falls in love with her captor, who even slaps and head butts her in a moment of panic to keep her from screaming. In his Pally discussion, he offered a very different interpretation of the story's treatment of its leading female characters: "It's the triumph of matriarchy, in the best sense of the word. The young man is looking for love and family, but in the last act it's the woman who decides yes or no. She and her sister set the conditions." Though many noted similarities between this film and John Fowles' The Collector (and its 1965 film adaptation by William Wyler), the ultimate outcome is, if anything, more reflective of Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967) with its "what next?" theme of romantic but terrified uncertainty in the closing frames, setting the pace for haunting open-ended resolutions to many of the filmmaker's later works. With its mixture of dangerous sexual politics, an unforgettable image of Marina enjoying a toy scuba diver in the bathtub, and a lengthy, heavy-breath sex scene, the film would have gotten a mixed response from the press in any case, but it also happened to be submitted to the MPAA just as a national discussion was erupting around the X rating. The only U.S. certification not under the legal ownership of the MPAA, the rating had become synonymous with hardcore pornography even when it was slapped on films that featured non-explicit content that simply went beyond the bounds of what was considered acceptable for an R rating. Both this film and another Miramax release, Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), were given X ratings and denied on appeal. An MPAA rating was considered desirable to get the films advertised more widely and played in more culturally conservative theaters, but Miramax decided to open the films unrated and started a very high-profile battle with the MPAA including a court case over this particular film, saying it cast the title in a bad light and jeopardized plans for an American remake (which never came to pass). This would be the first lawsuit against the modern MPAA rating system, and though Miramax ultimately lost, it led to the creation of the new NC-17 rating, which was subsequently applied to both Miramax films and would first appear theatrically applied to Philip Kaufman's Henry & June (1990). Though he would soon come to be regarded as one of the greatest living directors on the world cinematic stage, Almodóvar would continue to battle the MPAA over the NC-17 ratings given to his even more provocative Kika (1993), his first film after a two-title run at Miramax, and his stylish modern film noir, Bad Education (2004). However, with the initial controversy now long subsided and its once-shocking content now long surpassed at the art house many times over, it's much easier to appreciate Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! as a vital and surprisingly touching transitional film in a career whose films are all tied to each other in ways we have yet to fully realize. By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video December 12, 1990

Released in United States on Video January 16, 2001

Released in United States 1990

Released in United States February 1990

Released in United States February 1991

Released in United States January 1992

Shown at Munich Film Festival June 23-July 1, 1990.

Shown at Berlin Film Festival (in competition) February 9-20, 1990.

Shown at Belgrade International Film Festival February 1-10, 1991.

Formerly distributed by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video.

Completed shooting September 25, 1989.

Began shooting July 3, 1989.

Released in United States Spring May 4, 1990

Released in United States on Video December 12, 1990

Released in United States on Video January 16, 2001

Released in United States 1990 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Tribute) April 19 - May 3, 1990.)

Released in United States 1990 (Shown at Munich Film Festival June 23-July 1, 1990.)

Released in United States February 1990 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival (in competition) February 9-20, 1990.)

Released in United States February 1991 (Shown at Belgrade International Film Festival February 1-10, 1991.)

Released in United States January 1992 (Shown in New York City (Quad Cinema) as part of series "The Almodovar Collection" January 17-23, 1992.)

Released in United States Spring May 4, 1990