Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Women Make Almodavor's "VOLVER" Spin (Happy B'day, Penelope Cruz)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 63 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Volver (2006)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hour, 1 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexual content and language
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodóvar
PRODUCER: Esther García
CINEMATOGRAPHER: José Luis Alcaine (director of photography)
EDITOR: José Salcedo
2007 Academy Award nominee

DRAMA with elements of comedy and fantasy

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo, and Chus Lampreave

In his new film, Volver, two-time Academy Award winner Pedro Almodóvar (All About my Mother, Talk to Her) gives us three generations of women living in a world where the living and dead coexist. In this film, it is natural for the people of the La Mancha region of Spain, with its ever-present east wind, to practice a culture of death in which the deceased remain present in the lives of their living relatives. Also, José Luis Alcaine’s cinematograph for Volver is easily among the year’s best.

Abuela Irene (Carmen Maura), who died in a fire four years ago, is apparently revisiting her hometown in La Mancha. Irene wants to resolve the problems she didn’t or couldn’t during her lifetime, especially her relationship with her estranged daughter Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), who has her own problems. Raimunda has to surreptitiously bury her husband, Paco (Antonio de la Torre), after their daughter, Paula (Yohana Cobo who plays her part with such naturalness), kills him when he tries to rape his own daughter. After appearing first to her sister, the elderly Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave), Irene also visits her daughter Sole (Lola Dueñas), who makes a living as an illegal, home-based hairdresser. Meanwhile, fellow villager, Agustina (Blanca Portillo), is seeking out Irene for help with her own family issues.

If there are men who were born to make movies, Pedro Almodóvar is undoubtedly one of them. That’s evident in his beautiful films filled with vibrant colors, narratives, and people; in fact, José Luis Alcaine’s vivid cinematograph for Volver is easily among the year’s best.

Almodóvar also understands women. Here, in Volver (which mean “coming back”) his female characters make it through life by lying when necessary – either to protect themselves or the feelings of their loved ones. These women also survive the troubles of life because they have persistent vitality and a treasure trove of goodness in them. That’s how Almodóvar makes you root for them. These are good, simple, plain folks who, if possible, won’t let their complex interior selves bring harm to their loved ones, but they’re still capable of making bold moves to enrich their lives.

To play such funny, spontaneous, and intrepid women, Almodóvar guides a cast capable of deep, genuine emotion and of playing characters that sometimes take the hilarious path out of trouble. You’ll never look at Penélope Cruz the same way again after seeing her in this movie. Her Raimunda is a painterly performance, full of subtle color and audacious, but gentle strokes. Cruz is layered and flavored like a buffet of earthy dishes, and I was sad whenever her Raimunda left the screen.

The same can be said for the rest of cast: from Blanca Portillo as the troubled, gentle soul, Agustina to Carmen Maura as Irene, back-from-the-dead and looking to heal wounds and bandage hurts. Almodóvar’s Volver is why I like foreign cinema. It doesn’t mind telling stories that are as rich and as complex as literary fiction. But Almodóvar does the telling in a purely visual style that makes one appreciate storytelling shown on the screen.

9 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 1 nomination for “Best performance by an actress in a leading role” (Penélope Cruz)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Penélope Cruz) and “Best Film not in the English Language” (Agustín Almodóvar and Pedro Almodóvar)

2007 Golden Globes, USA: 2 nominations: “Best Foreign Language Film” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Penélope Cruz)

2007 Image Awards: 2 nominations: “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” (Penélope Cruz) and “Outstanding Independent or Foreign Film”

2006 Cannes Film Festival: 2 wins: “Best Actress” (Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo, and Chus Lampreave to the female ensemble cast) and “Best Screenplay” (Pedro Almodóvar); 1 nomination: “Palme d'Or” (Pedro Almodóvar)

Saturday, April 14, 2007


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