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Chus Lampreave (1930-2016)

Almodóvar aficionados, like you and I, have been dreading this day. But every great movie face eventually only still flickers on screens and in our memories. The great Chus Lampreave, so memorable in so many Pedro Almodóvar movies, has died at 85 years of age. She had been home bound recently in Almería.

Her film career began when Pedro was just a pre-teen. She was given her first acting job by the director Jaime de Armiñán. Like many directors after him, he worked with her repeatedly, including in the Oscar nominated film My Dearest Senorita (1972). She came to international fame via her relationship with Pedro Almodóvar though. She joined his troupe early on as one of his subversive nuns in Dark Habits (1983). She was always easy to spot with those coke bottle glasses, that tiny frame and inimitable voice. Dark Habits was the first of eight collaborations with Pedro over the next 26 years in which her comic timing and deliciously matter-of-fact next door neighbor / elderly relative charisma were always put to great use. After Dark Habits she appeared in Labyrinth of Passion, Matador, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Flower of My Secret, Talk to Her, Volver and Broken Embraces.

After the jump a bit more plus photos of some of her most memorable roles...

as "Sister Alley Rat" in DARK HABITS (1983)

As "Abuela" in WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS (1984), One of Almodóvar's most undervalued filmsHer first Goya nomination came for Fernando Trueba's YEAR OF ENLIGHTENMENT (1986)

 Though best known abroad for Almodóvar pictures she received her most awards mentions at home for Fernando Trueba's movies. She won the Goya, Spain's top film prize, for her supporting role in his Oscar winning Belle Epoque (1992) which starred Penélope Cruz. Later the two actresses shared the Cannes Best Actress prize with their co-stars in Almodóvar's masterpiece* Volver (2006).

Her Goya winning role as Doña Asun in BELLE EPOQUE (1992)

Her Goya nominated mother role in FLOWER OF MY SECRET (1995) As "Tia Paula" in VOLVER (2006) - the cast shared Cannes ACTRESS prize

Volver remains Almodóvar's most weirdly undervalued masterpiece. The consensus seems to be that Talk to Her, All About My Mother and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown are his greatest films but I'd personally argue for Law of Desire and Volver to make it a Holy Quintet (NOT THAT I'D WANT TO LIMIT MYSELF TO FIVE!)

As the Jehovah Witness in BROKEN EMBRACES (2009)
Her final Goya nomination came as María in Fernando Trueba's THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL (2012)

If you can read Spanish, I'd suggest reading these tributes at Todo Almodóvar and El País

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Reader Comments (13)

Rest in peace. I just rewatched Volver earlier this week. She is so great as Tia Paula. She will be missed.

April 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCoco

Rest in peace, Chus.

As for his undervalued masterpieces, I think both Bad Education and The Skin I Live In qualify for me, forming my personal holy quintet (with Talk to Her, All About My Mother and Volver). Late Almodovar is a lot more interesting to me than the early stuff.

April 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Gracias Chus for those great roles. Especially as Sister Alley Rat who was fun to watch.

April 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

RIP Ms. Lampreave.

I think my Almodóvar Top 5 would have to be (in random order)
Law of Desire
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Bad Education
Broken Embraces

But tomorrow I might switch out several of those for All About My Mother, Talk to Her, What Have I Done to Deserve This? or The Skin I Live in.

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Best of all time lists

1 - Talk To her


2- The Skin I Live In
3 - Live Flesh
4 - All About My Mother
5 - Bad Education
6 - Volver


7 - The Flower of My Secret
8 - Broken Embraces


9 - Matador
10 - Law of Desire

Don't care

All the rest (I've seen them all except for What Have I Done to Deserve This?)

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

¡Viva Chus!

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

As a spaniard I'm so sad with the passing of Chus. She was a constant presence in the spanish culture, always full of charm and surreal humor. Also, she was an angel to work with as many fellow actors and directors always have said. She was an original. Descanse en paz.

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

Aw no, this is devastating! I adored this woman

At least she leaves behind plenty of films for us to revisit and remember her by

She was never less than pitch-perfect but my favourite moment of hers is probably in Matador (?) where she answers the door with a blunt "Yes?" The two burly visitors inform her: "We are with the police." And she just completely naturally matter-of-factly dismisses them with something along the lines of "I can see that. So what?"

It's an ordinary line but something about her no-fuss delivery made me burst out laughing and so loudly that I had to pause the film to recover

She will so be missed

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Las Chicas Almodóvar will live forever.

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLuiserghio

Completely agree re: Volver ... definitely my favorite Almodóvar. I was so mad when it got snubbed for a nomination in Foreign Language. And then The Counterfeiters went on to win, which was an okay movie but...

Sad news about Lampreave. She was one the GREAT character players in Spanish Cinema. If you haven't seen Belle Epoque I would recommend it. As the rest of the cast she's great in it and it makes for a really fun, light movie.

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

Oh and cosign everything you say about Volver - it infuriates me how undervalued it is, though I believe its reputation is rising

And I more or less your agree with that Holy Quintet except it doesn't make room for Bad Education which is also sadly underappreciated (admittedly it took me multiple viewings to get the emotional impact)

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Chus Lampreave was one of the most iconic "chicas Almodóvar". She was a true scene stealer, always delivering funny and memorable lines.

My favorite performances from her would be Dark Habits, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and The Flower of My Secret.

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJuan Carlos

Chus was called by some, the spanish Thelma Ritter. For a good reason. She was so modest, she told Almodovar, while rejecting working with him, that she wasn't an actress, so she just wanted small bits.

Still, she elevated otherwise probably forgettable scenes, to the unforgettable level, with her fresh delivery of lines.

Her best work, however wasn't with Almodovar, it was in the essential "Espérame en el Cielo" (Wait for me in Heaven, Antonio Mercero, 1988), but her Goya was for the Best Foreign Film Oscar winner "Belle Epoque" (Fernando Trueba, 1993) and she won Best Actress in Cannes, shared with her fantastic co-stars in "Volver", by Almodóvar.

A truly unrewarded icon. And of course, the otherwise mediocre "The Flower of my Secret" was almost saved by the iconic and masterful acting duel between Chus and Rossy de Palma, another unrewarded spanish icon and Almodovar muse. Not much known abroad, de Palma focus her career in France, rather than in Spain, given the constant backslash to her persona and the lack of quality work offered to her. Sigh.

I should pass you a list of 10 under-the-radar spanish key films from the 80s up to now, that you should see, Nat. "Espérame en el Cielo", "El Milagro de P. Tinto", "El Dia de la Bestia", "Salto al vacío", "Los Cronocrímenes", "Intacto"... are locks to that list.

April 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

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