All About My Mother (1999)
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I definitely give it points for being very artistic and original. There are great colors in the setting, all the interweaving of Streetcar Named Desire and the story itself is very unusual so it is also not predictable.
But amazingly with this unpredictable story the movie that came out was so boring. I didn't really feel for these characters. Only for Manuela at first when her son dies and she deals with it by going to find the father, who is a cross dresser.
Yet I don't get why she did it. I understand she would do it when her son is alive to show him that half that is missing from his life no matter how ugly it is. But Lola didn't deserve the satisfaction. The character is absolutely despicable.
The rest are also not that great. Rosa is boring and I feel bad for her mother. Agrado is supposed to make me smile but I dislike this character as well.
In "All About My Mother," he does this again, with well-written dialogues, portraying people with universal problems of love, loss, sickness and death. Like few other male writers and directors, he seems able to grasp and convey the sentiments and situations of persons that, in different ways, live in the shadow of the patriarchy.
Manuela thinks she has escaped from her past, but with the inevitability of the coming tide, it rushes towards her and beckons a decision. A rainy night and an unsuspecting driver sends her son and the camera careening, and she is posed the same question that she performed for us in the opening: Will you give your loved one's organs up for donation? This is not just Almodóvar's playfulness at work, but the genre crying out: self-reflexivity, mirrored realities, a dramatic collision of past and present. Witness the slow motion of her anguish, and the mournful strings as she signs away her son's body. What would the back cover say? A part of her is missing, and this is her journey to reclaim herself.
The style is arresting, and provocatively draws attention to itself - Almodóvar has gained sincerity but lost none of his theatrical edge. The stage background is drenched in a melancholic blue, and the lead actress wears gold, but listen to the recital of Stanley Kowalski's famous line. It's barely a whimper, and Stella is already too far away to be seduced. The character, more animal than man, as Marlon Brando showed us, is reduced to pathetic stage dressing. The father, who also occupied the role, is now called Lola, and Rosa's father, a blank slate. The world is Manuela's stage, as Almodóvar indicates, punctuating the frame with red hair, lips, costumes, pushing his actors through zany mise en scène (her new apartment is a kaleidoscopic museum), weaving Tennessee Williams' lines into the dialogue of the everyday. She must perform constantly, keeping her grief at bay, feigning a more capable identity, and helping others claim theirs (she is Rosa's sister, because it presents a better look). Centre stage, ironically, is the only place where she can afford to take off her mask, a safe space from judgement and stigmatisation. Stella, and therefore Manuela, is allowed to weep openly, and the moment is emotionally cathartic (she even sports a fake belly!). Theatre is more real than reality, and it is Manuela's escape route from the harshness of life's dealt hand, but also a way of engaging with her grief. The stoic facade is discarded, and the tears flow so freely. And what are the men of the cast doing? They are being coached on their emotional projection: "The sadness should go into your hands. You have to work it," instructs the director.
This gloss is reminiscent of none other than the king of melodrama, Douglas Sirk. His work in the 50s were the romance novels of today (just look at their posters), adorned with roses, white picket fences, sweeping romance narratives, and lush Technicolor. But what the sheen concealed was an attack on classism, and the conformist ideologies of Eisenhower's suburbia. Today, seeing Jane Wyman's face imprisoned by the frame of the television, it seems obvious. Todd Haynes would try his hand at melodrama, updating Sirk's style with a modern exploration of homophobia. But while Far from Heaven is merely a renovated period piece, bursting at the seams with weepy and strained acting, All About My Mother cuts through it all. Almodóvar isn't just subtly pushing critique through irony, he's dropping glittery bombshells and eradicating sexual conformity, gender taboos and traditional values. And alongside Manuela's lifelong journey, he is shattering and reconstructing the nuclear family paradigm with his own zany personalities.
Agrado is the film's main source of warmth, but more vitally, humour. While the music is pulsating and tensions are at bursting point, she sashays in and disarms the scene with a witty remark and a healthy dose of self-depreciation. Almost overnight she has eased the doubts of Huma Rojo, two years on becoming her most trusted companion and confidant. And in the film's most liberating scene, she struts out under the spotlights after (melo)drama backstage cancels the night's performance. But what an opportunity the plot presents her with! She has been living on the fringes of society, shunned but for a select clientele, yet here she is on centre stage. She rattles off the prices of her plastic surgeries, so numerous that she resembles Theseus' ship, no longer made of the original model's pieces. Yet she is stronger and more confident than ever, so utterly sure of her role in life, and radiating authenticity in spite of the work done on her body. This is beauty and femininity and warmth all wrapped into one, not as a physical ideal, but as an fluid identity. And what Agrado has helped reshape Manuela into is so much more than just a mother.
The film begins in Madrid where a single mother, nurse, and organ transplant coordinator, Manuela (Cecilia Roth), lives with her sensitive 17-year-old son, Esteban (Eloy Azorín), an aspiring young writer. It is his birthday and the two watch a Spanish-dubbed version of All About My Mother on TV. It is then that Esteban apparently changes the title of his memories (Notes) to All About My Mother. Since Esteban is an aspiring writer, Manuela gives him a copy of Truman Capote's Music of Chameleons as an early birthday present. Later, she takes him to see, A Streetcar Named Desire, which is currently running in Madrid. The play moves Manuela to tears; Esteban asks her why she is crying; she tells him that she and his father once worked in that same play together, with her playing Stella and his father playing Kowalski. Esteban demands to know more about his father; and she promises to tell him later that night, as a favor to him on his birthday. After the play, Estaban is killed in a car accident while trying to get an autograph of the play's leading actress, Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes). With his death, she is asked to donate HIS heart to an unknown recipient at the same transplant center where she works.
Depressed and alone, Manuela decides to return to the Barcelona of her youth. There, she hopes to find Estaban's father and tell him all about his son. Upon arriving in Barcelona, she has a taxi take her to the red light district. There, she runs into Agrado (Antonia San Juan), an old friend of hers who used to live with her husband, Lola, before Lola robbed Agrado of all of her belongings to run off to Argentina. (Agarado and Lola were a transsexual couple; both were men who became women at the same time.) After seeing (and literally being rescued by) Manuela, Agarado decides to stop whoring and get a real job.
To find new jobs, the two friends go to a Catholic Mission in the district. There, they meet Sister María Rosa (Penélope Cruz), a young nun who is about to be sent to El Salvador to replace a nun that was killed there by guerrilla fighters. Agrado and Manuela tell Rosa that they are willing take almost any job. But, knowing there are no jobs, Rosa tries to get her mother to hire Manuela as a cook (or perhaps, help care for her father who has Alzheimer's. Thinking Manuela came into the mission as a whore, Rosa's mother (Rosa Maria Sardà) tells them that she doesn't need any help.
After the two leave Rosa's parents house, Rosa becomes sick. Manuela finds out that Rosa is about three months pregnant, and Manuela accompanies her to a doctor's office to get her first pregnancy checkup. There, Rosa asks for an AIDS blood test since she works in a high-risk job as a social worker. Two weeks later, she learns that she is HIV positive. When Manuela asks if she knows who the father is, Rosa tells her that it is Lola. Here, Manuela goes into a slight rage asking (telling) her that Lola has been shooting drugs for YEARS and asking her why she didn't know any better. With Rosa starting to 'show,' she has to leave the mission and stay with Manuela. A big part of Manuela's job is to keep as much of Rosa's pregnancy as simple as she can for Rosa's conventional mother. (After all, it is bad enough that her unwed daughter, a nun, became pregnant at all. Why tell her that the father is a HIV-positive transsexual drug addict, too?)
One night, Manuela goes to see Streetcar Named Desire again in Barcelona (with the same cast that had played in Madrid the night Esteban was killed). When Manuela goes backstage to see Huma Rojo in person, she passes Huma's personal assistant, Nina (Candela Peña), running out the back door. Nina, who plays Stella in SND is also Huma's lover and personal assistant. But, she is totally unreliable since she is hooked on drugs. Huma needs to find Nina and asks Manuela to help find her. After they find her in the red light district, Nina and Huma drive off leaving Manuela behind.
One night when Nina is bombed out of her mind, Manuela tells Huma that SHE can play the part of Stella and IS ABLE to pull it off in one performance, saving Huma's contract. When Nina returns, she accuses Manuela of sabotaging her career, just like Eve Harrington did in AAE. When Huma asks Manuela for an explanation, she breaks down and tells them about her husband, her son and how he died in the car accident while trying to get Huma's autograph in Madrid. When Huma asks Manuela to continue as her assistant, Manuela tells her that she must spend time caring for Rosa and suggests that Agrado take the job, which she does.
Since I am getting close to the story's climax, I will stop the plot description here to avoid stepping into any possible SPOILERS. However, I will say that plot continues to play out like an extended soap opera on a vivid pastel stage. All issues are 'resolved' in one way or another. But, to me, the story is still very contrived and way too complex to be effective in delivering any sort of central message or emotion. One could almost read any message into the movie. Maybe that is why the film appeals to so many people: I mean, I'm just saying.....
Pedro Almodovar has a made a film that is in a way a life affirming drama of friendship and loss. A woman grieving from the loss of her son, visiting another city to tell the father what has happened and making new friendships. There is a parallel story infused with high camp and acceptance of people in the margins of society. In this case transsexuals making a living though vice.
Manuela (Cecilia Roth) is a nurse who works in the transplant unit at a Madrid hospital. She lives with her son Esteban,a budding writer who she has raised on her own. She has told him nothing about his father. For his 18th birthday they go to watch a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire starring a famous actress, Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes.) Some years earlier Manuela had appeared with Esteban's father in an amateur production of the play.
Esteban foolishly runs towards the actress for an autograph and is in a car accident. Manuela goes to Barcelona to track down his father and tell him about the tragedy. It seems that Manuela had a complex relationship with him and it is suggested that he became a promiscuous transsexual.
In Barcelona Manuela rescues a mutual friend who is getting beaten up, Agrado (Antonia San Juan) also a transsexual and a prostitute. They meet a young nun, Sister Rosa (Penelope Cruz) who works with the vulnerable in the streets of Barcelona who turns out to be pregnant. Manuela realises that the father is the same man who made her pregnant years earlier.
The chaos of people clashing with each other continues as Manuela also meets up with the actress Huma whose touring production of Streetcar has reached Barcelona.
The film is about Manuela coming to terms of her loss but she also gets a chance to take care of Sister Rosa whose pregnancy becomes more complex. Her new friendships invigorates her especially brassy Agrado who despite all he has gone through, the beatings, expensive surgery, being used for sex has a life affirming attitude. As the song says, I will survive.
And so begins Manuela's journey from Madrid to Barcelona to find the father of her child, a transvestite, who never knew he had a son in the first place.
"Todos sobre mi madre" is a beautiful Spanish language film, that at first glance seems like a completely random and superficial spotlight. But if you look beneath the surface, this movie examines issues about religion, morality, gender identity and even awareness of trans-gender issues. All complex and intricate topics to explore interwoven into the simple story of a woman trying to connect with her past. There are tears, there is laughter but nothing is over-emphasized over the other. You are both happy and sad while watching this film, but there is no imbalance of emotion towards one or the other.
Intriguing and original for its time.
I love the first half of the movie. I love Pedro Almodóvar's bright colors and exuberant style. The dirt road where the prostitutes congregate is an amazing scene. I just felt the movie loses focus later on as it deals with the various characters. It's still an amazing movie.
I mean, in many aspects the movie is pretty brilliant. The acting is the highlight. Cecilia Roth, Antonia San Juan and Penelope Cruz shine bright through the story. Specially Cecilia, I'm really impressed.
However, at the some point the story becomes evident. You see what is going to happen at each character. When I watched, I hoped for some twist, or something that would make my jaw drop. But eventually, that didn't happen. I don't know if I put lots of high expectation about this (maybe so), but the end could be better in my opinion. Still, it is a movie worth watching.
Agreeable film full of feeling , outlandish characters , haunting mood-pieces , Spanish Neo-realism , and sense of style but not totally satisfactory , including conventional pitfalls , profanities and a lot of sexual references . The picture deals with off-the-wall as well as semi-ironic melodrama , familiar absurdities, dysfunctional roles and many other things ; featuring a feminist heroine of classical proportions . The picture is pretty well but turns out to be inferior to Almodovar's subsequent entries such as ¨The skin I live in¨, ¨Volver¨ , ¨The bad education¨ or ¨Talk to her¨. The result is undiluted scabrous drama , crazy strings of plots , sharp images , plenty of sexual dialogs in constant references to blow-jobs and perverted sex . Filmmaker piles up on the contrivances , turns and twisted events so that the picture to have success . It's a piquant look at lower-middle classes involving strange and complicated situations during its half an hour runtime . Pedro Almodóvar dedicated his movie to Bette Davis, Gena Rowlands and Romy Schneider . And being influenced by American films such as ¨All about Eva¨, ¨A streetcar named desire¨ and by director Douglas Sirk . Nice interpretations by all cast , as Cecilia Roth as a hard-working single mummy , Penelope Cruz as a young nun bound for El Salvador, but instead finds out she is pregnant and Antonia San Juan as likable transvestite , she splendidly plays a monologue based on a real life event as when the electronic system of an theater failed, the director suspended the show , then an actress decided to give the news to the audience and make them an offer: if they'd stay, they could listen to the narration of her life . Furthermore , a notorious support cast such as Marisa Paredes , Rosa Maria Sarda , Fernando Fernan Gomez , Candela Peña ,Manuel Lozano , Juan Jose Otegui and other delightfully played roles . As usual in most of Pedro Almodóvar's movies, there is a small role for Agustín Almodóvar, his brother and producer of the film, who plays a cab man . Sensitive musical score by Alberto Iglesias , Almodovar's ordinary ; including some marvelous songs . Colorful and luxurious cinematography by Alfonso Beato .
The motion picture was realized in his peculiar style by Pedro Almodovar ; he often uses symbolism and metaphorical techniques to portray circular story lines though here he directs a special melodrama , including his ordinary touches . Almodovar directs throughout with splendid zip and he usually portrays strong female characters and transsexuals and along his career getting some important international prizes . His first feature film, Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980), was made in 16 mm and blown-up to 35 mm for public release . In 1987, he and his brother Agustín Almodóvar established their own production company : El Deseo, S. A. The "Almodóvar phenomenon" has reached all over the world , making his films very popular in many countries . Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar who made successes such as Labyrinth of passions , Law of desire , Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown , Bad education , All about my mother , Talk to her , Broken embraces , The Skin I Live In and many others . The latest from acclaimed Spanish director , Pedro Almodovar's I'm So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros) competing for the inaugural best European comedy honor during the upcoming 26th edition of the European Film Awards .
Everything about the film is so exemplary that pointing out the film's strengths seems rather redundant. The film features all its stars at their best, their zeniths. The film was so phenomenal that I wouldn't have been surprised if Almodóvar retired after completing it. Thankfully, though, he didn't and has continued making top quality films with the same heart he had making All About My Mother.
There isn't a very strong plot in this follow-up to Carne Tremula, but there's tons of atmosphere and fascinating characters, and everybody acts their hearts out, especially Roth and Antonia San Juan. Penelope Cruz is also good as a social worker with AIDS whom Roth takes under her wing. It's a continuation of the themes of grief, helplessness and fate from Almodovar's 1997 masterpiece but it's much less stylized, more sensitive and character-centered.
Before I begin, I want to mention an observation about Almodóvar's films, What makes him one of the most unique filmmaker in the whole crowd is his possessiveness or obsession for the most complex human emotions and socially Unapproved Human relations. And I also must add that for some reason he also likes medical equipments very much and he film it very passionately.
Golden Globe winner "All About my Mother" is the story of "Manuela". How she experience the same pattern of her life again when her young son "Esteban" dies in a car accident on his 17th birthday as he runs to seek an actress's autograph. After this incident her life revolves one more time in the same pattern. She experience the same emotions, and encounter the people in the similar way It happened with her 17 years Ago.
Actually in my experience Life always follows a pattern, Most of us just don't notice it. But those who live in the state of awareness can easily experience how the past appears again in the future. It's like going through the same lesson twice, like revising it to make sure that I learn it very well.
The way Almodóvar's portray the characters in his films, It demands very high level of emotional and psychological sense of human life to understand its genuineness. Else an Audience might misinterpret it.
But What I like most About Almodóvar's film, even after whole complexities in the end "EVERYTHING IS FINE" and If it's not fine, It's not the end.
This is very visually striking film, with the bold use of primary colors (blues and reds) for scenery and often in the foreground. The cinematography in general is pretty decent, but it is evident that the director's real goal is to evoke emotion through color and patterns (the wallpaper in this film is outrageous).
As a story, it is compelling and intriguing. To say there is one steady narrative is not strictly true. While it follows Manuela over a two month period, we are constantly being introduced to unlikely characters and see how they interact and their lives intertwine. Some twists are predictable, but many are not.
The film has a way of making the taboo not so taboo. Prostitutes, transvestism, HIV, drug use and other topics come up and are discussed without seeming out of the ordinary or "wrong". But more interestingly, aside from a brief prostitution scene, the film is also very subtle -- there is little nudity and no drugs are ever on-screen.
The parallels with "Streetcar Named Desire" and "All About Eve" are masterfully interwoven with the film. These two stories are both in the movie and alongside it. The character of Huma Rojo admires Bette Davis, and the film begins with a critique of "All About Eve" before Manuela begins living it. "Streetcar" is also a recurring theme... appearing as an actual play, but also more than this.
Roger Ebert says the film is "sincere and heartfelt; though two of its characters are transvestite hookers, one is a pregnant nun and two more are battling lesbians, this is a film that paradoxically expresses family values." And he is right, echoing what I said above about none of this seeming "wrong"... it is just another family trying to live, albeit a family structure not normally recognized as "family".
He further says, "Manuela is the heroine of the film and its center, but Agrado is the source of life." This is a difficult assessment to agree with or not. Manuela clearly is the heroine, but is Agrado the "source of life"? Or is s/he a tragic, yet comic figure? It is difficult to envy or admire her, though she has chosen this way of life on purpose: every inch of her body was an intentional act. She has followed her dreams, as misguided and foolhardy as we may think they are.
I am not familiar with the director's other work, but giving this film an Oscar seems more than fair. It tells a story that is not strictly one of Spain but is far more universal. And while most of us do not have prostitution and heroin in our daily lives, we do understand the role of motherhood.
All About My Mother is story of a woman and her circle of friends who find themselves suffering a variety of emotional crises. Manuela is a single mother who has raised her son, Esteban, to adulthood on her own and has come to emotionally depend on him. One night, Manuela and Esteban take in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire; after the show, Esteban is struck and killed by a passing motorist as he dashes into the street to get an autograph from Huma Rojo, who played Blanche. Emotionally devastated, Manuela relocates to Barcelona in hopes of finding her ex-husband, who is now working as a female impersonator. Manuela becomes reacquainted with old friend La Agrado, a transsexual, and is introduced to Sister Rosa, a good-hearted nun who has to contend with her considerably more cynical mother. While looking for work, Manuela becomes acquainted with Huma Rojo. Huma, on the other hand, has troubles of her own, most involving her drug-addicted significant other, Nina.
All About My Mother displays Almodóvar's trademark visual style and a unusually strong sense of character-driven drama that mixes with themes and characters from Streetcar Named Desire And All About Eve.It was a wonderful and poignant story of love, loss and compassion centered on women.Also,it was also a intelligent sensibility with wicked sense of humor.The acting was also brilliant of all the cast involved.And most of all,the direction of Almodóvar makes this film a masterpiece Spanish cinema classic.
The movie does an excellent job establishing the relationship between the mother and the son so when the son dies one can really feel the emotional impact. This is where we first see Cecilia Roth shine in the role of Manuela. We are really able to feel that this is a difficult time in her life and that when she decides to pick up and start her life over we understand. When she gets to Barcelona we are immediately thrust into the underworld and are introduced to Antonia San Juan who does an excellent playing Manuela's old friend a pre-op transvestite. She does come off as being a bit over the top at times, but is never out of character. There is a scene where Agrado was given the opportunity to put on a one women show she seems to drop the ball and a scene with a lot of potential was fairly tame.
My biggest problem with the movie is the relationship between Penelope Cruz's character, Rosa, and Manuela. I was confused on how Rosa came to trust Manuela so completely so quickly. I do not think that Cruz did anything special with the character, which was unfortunate because she is such an important part of the story of Manuela. Since this movie is about Manuela as a mother and since she adopts Rosa's baby, when she dies in child birth, it is disappointing that there was not more of a connection between Roth and Cruz on screen.
I did love some of the transition shots used and the one at the end with the train going from Barcelona and then back again was neat. These type of shots along with the soundtrack keeps this movie from being too boring and not just a rehashing of the same story. Also I like the almost meta aspect of the theater production of A Streetcar Name Desire. I enjoyed how it was interwoven into the story and how the actress and the story play itself became a part of Manuela's growth. Watching her take care of the principle actresses and Rosa allowed the viewer to never lose track of what made Manuela a mother.
Overall this movie was extremely well put together, but there were weaknesses to be had. At times the movie lost focus on Manuela and focused a bit too much on Agrado or Rosa's stories. It was a fresh take on what normally would have been a boring and bland Oscar bait movie.
I must first point out that this is NOT a film to watch with your mother or priest. It is jam-packed full of morally ambiguous people and situations that are bound to offend. This is NOT surprising, as director Almondovar seems to LOVE to offend or at least challenge the viewer--and this is a frequent theme in his films. It covers topics like AIDS, transvestite prostitution, drug abuse, nuns getting pregnant and codependency. This is NOT a film for the faint-hearted!! HOWEVER, despite a bizarre plot that I won't even try to summarize, I must also point out that this is among the best-acted films I have ever seen...period. The film sure packs an emotional wallop as well and leaves the viewer marveling at the cast and the expert direction. A must-see for anyone wanting to see great acting...simply great.
Along her path of mourning and renewal she meets several interesting people. She acts maternally towards them.
Even though this movie is in Spanish, everything translates through and through the acting, writing, and filming. This is not a movie to watch if you want an upper. It's emotionally draining film. So, if you feel intellectual or something life changing, I recommend this movie!
This is a case where a film actually evolve to artwork...
Colorful here, refers to three things: the warm colors of the art direction, photography and the colorful characters of the story. "Volver" (2006) was my first Almodovar film and it made an impression upon me. "All About My Mother" approaches the storytelling excellence of "Volver".
In a way, Almodovar style and insight is very similar to Joseph L. Mankiewicz, part of whose famous awarded film "All About Eve", is used in this film. There's also references to stage acting and the famous play: "A Streetcar Named Desire". There is also inspiration taken from the title of "All About Eve" itself.
What's best about the film is it's about human relationships and done with honesty and sensitivity.
Maybe not a very flattering one, nor representative as typical. However, if it's a human condition and an affection, whether lustful or emotional (or both) All About's got the lot. That it covers them all, without them cluttering not only the entire script, but us, also, is a major achievement. Somehow they work alongside each other, fitting in, often awkwardly - and for once, the lovely Penelope Cruz is the relatively plain and 'normal' one - and a modern day nun at that!
Playing around the two film's (All About Eve & A Streetcar Named Desire) themes is a way of keeping some semblance of continuity, ones that viewers might first be drawn to and then to expand from. Having re-watched All About Eve again recently, I was pre-armed to see how it might all fit in.
It would be knee-jerk reactionary to say something like "Everybody should see this" and "Everybody would be more tolerant, if they watched this", however much one feels the need to do so. Somehow, it is a private gem that however much we think others are tolerant and open- minded, our parents - for example - would simply either be just too shocked or bogged down almost immediately as to who-was-doing-what-and-to-who.
One of those colourful vignettes of modern, societal Spain, as individual as Gaudi himself. Impeccably cast, directed and acted but an unusual set of ingredients do make up an interesting, but at times, challenging dish.