Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not A Movie Review

Another weekend another movie? Why not, especially if it is a great movie like Volver (English translation.. return). We were back at the lovely Bryn Mawr Film Institute to watch this movie. While I went on my own last week to watch Venus, *A* wanted to watch Volver and so the two of us managed to make it to this one. *A* also liked the theater and she is a fan of good cinema so I guess we will be making more trips to Bryn Mawr.

One of the added charms of a community movie house like BMFI are small moments like the one when the president of the institute came to the show to thank all the patrons and announce a one day movie fest. For a small place like Bryn Mawr it seems fairly active in terms of offering great cinema and I am excited at the prospect of going back.

A bit about Volver..
Rated R
Length : 2 hrs 1 min
On DVD 04-03-2007


Pedro Almodovar Director
Esther Garcia Producer
Agustin Almodovar Executive Producer
Jose Luis Alcaine Director of Photography
Alberto Iglesias Composer

Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Chus Lampreave, Cobo Yohana, Antonio de la torre, Carlos Blanco, Maria Isabel Diaz, Neus Sanz

This is only the third of Pedro Almodovar’s movies that I have seen so far and I am already a fan. I hope to slowly over time see his earlier movies as well. As I watched this movie, I was able to spot the signature Almodovar flourishes, an excellent use of colors (the movie felt very warm and rich), layered narrative, humor and of course the complex characters who often are women. He does celebrate women and family in a lot of his movies. If you are looking for a male character (a well characterized one) you won’t find one in this movie. The men are literally disposable in this movie and this movie is a celebration of the resilience of women.

The storyline.. (based on the link here, with my own notes added)

Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) plays a young hard working, attractive mother. She has a daughter in mid-adolescence and a husband who is unemployed and so she juggles several jobs. Raimunda is strong woman, but she also comes across as someone with a very fragile emotional core. You can sense there is something deeper within her that is not being revealed.

Her older sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) is an antithesis of her, she makes her living running an unlicensed beauty salon from home. Her husband has left her.

Paula is their aunt. She lives in a village in La Mancha where the whole family was born. The regions of La Manch is known for fierce East winds that are rumored to make the residents more prone to insanity. The raging winds are also responsible for devastating fires that have caused the death of the parents of Raimunda and Sole.

Sole calls Raimunda to tell her that Agustina (a neighbour in the village played by Blanca Portillo) has phoned to tell her that their Aunt Paula has died. Raimunda loves her aunt, but she can’t go to the funeral because moments before getting the call from her sister, when she had just come back from one of her jobs, she had found her husband dead in the kitchen, with a knife stuck in his chest. Her daughter confesses that she killed him because he had got drunk and kept making sexual advances to her. All that Raimunda can think of is to protect her daughter and going to the funeral becomes out of question.

Sole is stuck with going on her own to the funeral. It is here that she hears rumors that her mother (who died in a fire with her father) has came back from the other world to look after Aunt Paula in her final years. The assumption here is that she is naturally a ghost. When Sole returns after parking her car, she hears noises from the trunk. We hear a voice from the trunk that calls itself Sole’s mother. She is naturally terrified, but finally opens it and the ghost of the mother (Carmen Maura) comes out of the trunk. Sole takes her in and lets her help out in the hair salon. The pretense here is that she is Russian woman that Sole took pity on and took her in. She helps out with the clients pretending she does not understand Spanish.

Neither Sole nor Raimunda can tell each other the secret they each harbor. Raimunda just says Paco (her husband) has left her. All she wants to do is get rid of the body which is temporarily stashed in the freezer of the restaurant which belongs to a neighbor who is out of town and that she has temporarily taken over. There are several situations that arise out of this that are funny, tense, melodramatic and at times very emotional. The way the two sisters wriggle out of these situations is a testament to the characters will and resilience.

Things to come to a head, when Raimunda comes face to face with her mother’s "ghost" and with the terrible secret that she is harboring.

I realized how apt the title “Volver” (return) is. The movie is about returning. It is about returning from the beyond. The tone for this gets set at the start of the movie which opens with the east wind blowing and with women cleaning the graves of their loved ones who have moved on. They may have moved on but their presence rules the lives of those left behind. It is also about returning to help undo wrongs that were done, or for atoning for mistakes of the past. It also shows how strong family ties can be despite the chasms that sometimes open between loved ones. The movie also explores themes about family and ties that bind friends and community.

Almodovar’s love of color and detail is very obvious in this movie. It is visually delightful to watch. His women characters are all beautifully drawn and they are very human and flawed and are remarkable in their strength, will to survive and overcome odds.

I have seen movies before with Penelope Cruz, and was not very impressed with her as an actress. She was nominated for an Oscar for this role and I can see why. She does a marvelous job as Raimunda and I have a lot of respect for her now as an actress. She is simply amazing. All the casting was excellent especially Carmen Maura as the mother.

I would recommend this movie very strongly. This movie is funny, touching, simple and yet complex and at times emotional. The 2 hours spent watching this film are worth every minute.


Keshi said...

ok then :) Tnxxx Sanjay!


Eli said...

I'm not much of a Penelope Cruz fan, but she is a *much* better actress when she's speaking Spanish than when she's speaking English.

This is actually the first review I've read that actually told me what the movie was *about* - I didn't even know there was a ghost in it.

Ameet said...

I am a huge fan of Almodovar's recent works. His movies are visually stunning and have many layers of depth. You can watch them over an over again and see something new each time.

If you liked Volver, I'd also highly recommend "All About My Mother".

Anali said...

I have to see this before it leaves the theaters!! I have the feeling that this is one of those films that is great on the big screen and worth the effort to get there.

Shitrint said...

hey sanjay, lovely review!
after reading ur review, im surely gonna catch this movie. i had seen a few scenes from 'woman on top' and wasnt really impressed with penelope cruz, especially her dialogue delivery. i havnet ever watched any almodovar film. so this one shud be a good start.

chandni said...

sounds pretty good eh?

I havent seen a good film in ages it seems!!!

Aditi said...

sounds like a fascinating movie

Sanjay said...

@Keshi.. You are welcome.

@Eli. Strange you should say that. *A* said exactly the same thing. There is a "ghost" in it.

@Ameet, you make a good point. I have seen "All about my mother" and "Talk to me". Loved them both.

@Anali.. Yes it will be worth it, but the DVD is also coming out next month.

@Shitrint.. Thanks. As Eli said Penelope Cruz is completely different as an actress in he native language, perhaps it also has to do with the roles that we have seen her in Hollywood that perhaps never gave her a chance to shine?

@Chandni.. It is a great movie.

@Aditi.. It is a lovely movie, you will love it me thinks.

Asha said...

I heard about this movie in some Award show!Don't think I am planning to see this but thanks for the review!:))

patches said...

I want to see this movie, but I must confess,I didn't know anything about the plot until I read your post. Now I really want to see this movie : )

meno said...

I loved this movie too.

I hope you have seen "Talk to Her", if not, you should.

Sanjay said...

@Asha.. welcome. :)

@Patches, I think you will enjoy the movie.

@Meno. Yes I have seen "Talk To Her", another great movie of his.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanjay!

I was most excited to see a movie post on your blog today. I seem to have been bitten by the movie bug...I've managed to see four movies over the past four days, not bad huh? :)

Never seen any of Almodovar's movies although I have been meaning to, I will just have to put "Volver" on my list of "must-see's" - many thanks for the heads up.

Hope your week's off to a great start!

Sanjay said...

@Lotus..:-) Yes you indeed seem to have been bitten by the movie bug. 4 in 4 or 4 for 4 is just a great batting average (1.00) to use a baseball analogy. :).

I am excited for you too, now that you are catching up on a lot of movies.

And the movie bug you have, may be a more virulent strain so to say as opposed to me as I could only do one movie in a week. :)

Hope you manage to catch the Almodovar movies, like Meno said too, you must also see "Talk to her".

My week is ok so far hope yours is off to a great start too.

Thank you for you comment and am happy to share information about movies I watch.

ML said...

I also am not impressed w/Penelope Cruz's acting, but it sounds like she really did an excellent job in this film. Still not a fan, though.

Thanks for the reveiw, Sanjay!

Sai said...

Lovely Review....will definitely watch it.

deepsat said...

Nice review Sanjay! will definitely give it a watch!


Viewer said...

The story seems intersting.. but its a bit hard to belive that Penelope can really act.....

Mukta said...


I had seen Penelope Cruz' interview on a Jay Leno show (where it's actually hard to take anyone or anything seriously.) But i am really keen to watch Volver. I like Penelope Cruz. One classy lady.

Orchid said...

I love Penelope, especially the way she wears her eye makeup...sorry, totally irrelevant, but I will watch this and the recommendation helps :)

Aditi said...

no new entries?

Carrie said...

I'll put it on my list.