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I'm not going to tell you what the film is about because what was about for me it may not be for you and one of the many pleasures of the film is to find yourself there. Just let me say that after the Sahara, Vanilla Sky and Captain Corelli's Mandolin's adventures in Hollywood, I had discarded Penelope Cruz as an actress, completely. Well, "Volver" made me swallow my judgment. She is, quite simply, spectacular. A sort of Sophia Loren when Sophia worked with Vittorio De Sica. She is a mass of contradictions and not for a moment she tries to play for sympathy.Her emotion is contagious and makes us comprehend the incomprehensible. Carmen Maura makes a chilling, beautiful and unique entrance into this sublime Almodovar film based on his most scrumptious screenplay. The women stick together for each other's sake, they may even cross unspeakable boundaries for sheer compassion. The film uplifted me in a way that no other film has done in a long, long time.
EPIC COMEDY If we get to forget the delirious and delicious comedy side
of the film, we find an epic story of what the second half of the past
century was for so many women in Spain. Moving from the town to the
city(from La Mancha to Madrid, from great patio houses full of
architectural wisdom to terrific social housing apartments in the
suburbs of the city), fighting against the elements(fire that burns
down like love, wind that drives you crazy, water that used to fill our
rivers and now is gone), having bad luck with men as the only possible
fate, exercising companionship, imagination, tenderness and shrewdness
as their only weapons for surviving. Keeping dignity untouched inside
ACTRESSES Pedro Almodovar in this film is like a top ten chef reinventing the most popular dishes of his own culture! The movie is a tasting menu of the greatest playing actresses with the best possible direction. The wild instinct of Penelope to construct a suburban animal, with strong links to Italian mommas, the touching interpretation of Blanca Portillo, simply mind blowing, the master lesson from Chus Lampreave that fills the theater with rivers of affection, the young actress Yohana Cobo that achieves success in some of the most difficult takes in the film, and Lola Dueñas that gets the plainest part and gives it a huge dimension with high level performance for comedy. And Carmen Maura, that stars the story like a Japanese terror movie star, she is like the Obi-Wan Kenobi of La Mancha.
DENSITY AND GRATITUDE So we have an epic story, great actresses, and a refined comedy that fills the spectator with gratitude, at least that is my case. I just have no defense in front of a film like this, that tells me a great story, makes me laugh, and has the highest detail density in objects colors, comments, views, gestures, references, movements and subplots. That is probably the only trouble with it, more than one view is necessary to catch it all, if possible!
An extremely kind, compassionate and tender film noir, from Spain's
most internationally acclaimed filmmaker, might lack some of the
suspense his other movies are famous for, but still it keeps the
spectator thrilled and anxious until the very last moments. Anyone who
likes Almodovar movies should see this one, and you can bring your
family along, for a change (kids and grandmas alike).
Indeed, the movie lacks some of the usual Almodovar suspense, and whatever mysteries it contains, are generally solved by the viewer some 20 minutes before they are explicitly and verbally elaborated on screen. It looks like Almodovar lost some of his interest in the telltale part of his movies, paying more attention to acting and emotions. Well, acting is fully worth the shift.
Penelope Cruz is predictably brilliant and gorgeous, but performance by other ladies (from the elderly Chuz Lampreave to teenage Cobo) is also worth applause.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A wonderful movie,a masterpiece. Whether or not it's the summit of the
director's output so far will be a matter of taste, but it's definitely
up there with Hable Con Ella and All About My Mother.
The story is dazzlingly well told. Even though it has the trappings of soap-operatic melodrama, sheer pace prevents any of the characters descending into self-pity. The emotional courage of these women (there are only four men with speaking parts in the entire movie, as far as I can remember, with not one of them being a major character) is what marks them out. Their complete involvement in life and, particularly in this film, death.
The photography is excellent. Beautiful shots suddenly throw an event into weird relief, such as the funeral cortège framed between the sides of a narrow street, or the landscape suddenly resonating poetically with the hypnotic turning of windmills.
The rhythmic editing is a trademark of Almodovar's. He's like a great jazz musician. Talking of which, his use of and sensitivity to music is another of his defining characteristics, and the score here, highly reminiscent of the same composer's work on Hable Con Ella, is again wonderfully melodic and romantic, matching the inner fire of the superb actors.
Penelope Cruz lights up the screen. As others have remarked, her performance seems to be something of an homage to Sophia Loren - but Cruz is her own woman: she dazzles in a to-die-for role. However, this is far from being a star-plus-the-rest movie: the entire cast is in every way up to the mark, not least the great Maura, who herself seems to be invoking another Italian cinematic icon - Giulietta Massina.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pedro Almodovar's 2004 Hitchcockian effort, Bad Education, proved to be
a polarizing force. Volver found plaudits amongst nearly every critic,
and that is because amongst the father-stabbing, singalongs and
appearances of ghosts, Almodovar has truly found his niche.
Penelope Cruz plays the put-upon mother Raimunda, who, straight after attending the dusty town of La Mancha to attend to her mother's grave, finds herself husbandless, thanks to her own daughter. So far, so convoluted. But there's more. Her sister, Sole (Lola Deunas) thinks she's seeing the ghost of her dead mother, and their friend Augustina tries to find out the truth about her own mother, before time runs out and cancer gets the best of her.
In his deftly-weaved, beautifully portrait of the fairer sex, Almodovar's touches are bold and brilliant, every scene resonating a vibrancy and unforgettable soul that is very appealing. In the lead role, Penelope Cruz gives one of the best performances of the year. As Raimunda, she is outspoken, risk-taking, and harbours a troubled secret about her daughter. The plot turns, suffice to say are as audacious as that of any Alomodovarian plot, but Volver impacts for its huge heart. You will love this women and care about their every move.
The melodramatic, offbeat style that the film is made suits it perfectly, and Cruz, Duenas, Maura and Portillo give performances that impress and involve. Although the film, written specially for Cruz, essentially belongs to her and the independent, individual character of Raimunda, Maura, as the ghostly figure of her mother, is sad and funny, and perfectly in control of a performance that could easily slip into farce. Portillo is as impressive, and in a key scene involving a decision made on live TV, every nuance of her acting is effective in the heart-wrenching scene.
Regular Almodovar collaborator, Alberto Iglesias, tunes his musical skills to perfection, and, through pizzicato-led interludes and frames saturated with colour, Almodovar's canny direction shines. He presents us a story as big-hearted and loving as many you're likely to find this year, and, despite there being some shocking plot twists, you'll still come out of Volver with a positive outlook on life. There's a lot of ground covered here, from severing drinks to parental atonement, but every scene has something great to it, thanks to a lovely screenplay that is by turns witty, bright, disturbing and heartbreaking. Mature, beautifully told and wonderfully acted, Volver is worth returning to.
I saw this film yesterday and it got me thinking well after I had left the cinema. It made me cry and it made me laugh. It is a choral film where women (as usual with Almodóvar) have the upper hand. I'm not a big fan of Penélope but I must admit she's really up to scratch this time. She has clearly fed on Sofia Loren to come up with the very credible character of Raimunda: tight skirts, high heels and generous cleavage. Carmen Maura and Lola Dueñas are simply magnificent. Also Chus Lampreave as Tía Paula (even in a too-short appearance inspired in Almodóvar's mother) is superb. Almodóvar himself has admitted that this is one of his most personal films, set in his home region of La Mancha and full of memories of his own childhood. Great music too. The moment of the tango ("Volver" by C. Gardel) turned into flamenco really makes you break in goose pimples. However, it is not Penélope's voice, but flamenco-star Estrella Morente's. If you like Almodóvar, you will certainly like this film.
It's when you stumble out of the cinema and dive into the nearest coffee shop to greet the assistant in a language you only use on holiday that the power of this movie becomes evident. This is incredibly powerful stuff...and done in a way only Pedro Almodovar knows how. Cruz is absolutely magnificent in a finely nuanced performance. This an incredible mix of gritty realism and absolute fantasy. The dialogue is clipped and aggressive....wonderful...none of that Hollywood psychobabble and truly down to earth. This is a film about the lives of people who won't see it, if they even get an opportunity...subtitled films are the preserve of the chattering classes right? How many independent cinemas are to be found in working class areas? Can't see this being shown at the local flea pit ...a real shame really, it's a must see for all.
I now can say I have seen a Pedro Almodóvar film in the theatre. Sure I
saw five of the eight films included in ¡Viva Pedro!, but those were
DVD projections, while Volver was the real thing (as evidenced by it
catching fire causing the six or so of us watching to wait a bit before
seeing the final twenty minutes). I will admit, while enjoying Pedro's
lighter, earlier fare, it is the dramatic and dark films I really have
an affinity for. Carne trémula and Hable con ella are brilliant movies
that left an indelible mark on me once they concluded. Volver has
moments of true emotional resonance, but there is a bit too much
playfulness and an inconsistent tone that prevented it from being the
masterpiece most critics are calling it, for me at least. I was
captivated by the performances and the seemingly slight storyline,
trying to figure out where it was going. However, a lot goes on that,
while pulling a Usual Suspects twist, really is a series of McGuffins.
Like that movie did for me, Volver proves that a great 180-degree flip
at the end does not make a great film out of the hour and a half before
it. Pedro definitely had something here, and while a very good film,
just didn't quite seem to know how serious to take it.
Even if the film was utter crap, I would still have given it a good rating based on the phenomenal performance from Penélope Cruz. She has always been panned as an English- speaking actress, yet hailed as one of the best when in her native language. It's trueI have not seen a really great role from her in English, (Vanilla Sky was good, but knowing that she was in the Spanish original, I have to hold judgment until seeing Abre los ojos), and the foreign movies I've seen with her showed a more confident skilled professional. Both times seeing Cruz in her natural element were in Pedro films, but unlike Carne trémula and Todo sobre mi madre, where she played somewhat shy women, relying on her friends, here in Volver, she has an almost sexual awakening from those previous roles. One could say that this film is a vehicle for Cruz's gorgeous figure as much as the story being told. She is simply beautiful throughout, and it's that beauty and self-assuredness that makes the touching moments of poignancy that much more effective. She goes through all emotions here, and I believe if Pedro allowed the film to stay true to the dramatic elements rather than playing some serious moments as comedic, her performance would have been elevated even higher.
The supporting characters all do great work as well. Lola Dueñas is great as the sister whose secret knowledge of their mother's return from the afterlife constantly keeps her on her toes. The facial expressions are priceless when trying to keep her stories straight with her sister and hairstyle customers. With her role here and in the fantastic Mar adentro, (coincidentally directed by Alejandro Amenábar who did the aforementioned Abre los ojos), I really hope more of the hugely successful Spanish directors today utilize her immense talents. As for the ghost of a mother, Carmen Maura, Pedro's old muse, returns in front of his camera. She plays the part perfectly where you can never quite see if she is a ghost or really there. Her comedic timing is precisely on the mark each instance needed, but again I feel it could have been better used in a different film. I also must mention Chus Lampreave with her distinctive voice and delivery, shining again in a small role. Almost every Pedro film I've seen has had her involved.
My review here might seem a bit harsh, but let me say I really enjoyed the film. It is just the knowledge of what Almodóvar can do with a dramatic piece of work that makes me think of how much more the movie could have been. No one does female-driven stories of family, love, and grief better, and it is just a shame many Americans don't have a clue about him. Hopefully Pedro will never sellout and do an English language film unless it's necessary for the story; he is too good at showing the culture of his home country of Spain. I have no clue if what he displays is true Spanish culture, but the opening scenes, with the tombstone cleaning, the funeral stories, and the non-stop kissing-greetings, make me feel totally surrounded by this foreign land.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The minute Volver opens we know we're in for a strange ride. A rural
cemetery is a hive of activity - women cheerily cleaning the headstones
with almost festive enthusiasm. It could be a song and dance number,
though we observe that the music is overlaid, the women aren't actually
singing and, on closer inspection, the scene is strangely normal - if a
little unusual. As Raimunda (Penelope Cruz), Sole and young Paula
depart the gates, we are swept along into a fast moving story that cuts
through moral boundaries with an unerring surety.
This film is mostly about women, girls sticking together across generations, separations and misunderstandings, bonding and being able to rely on each other. But, this being an Almodóvar story, don't expect a cosy little tale where people follow a yellow brick road to happiness; Paula's father ogles then tries to rape her and gets himself accidentally murdered, more and more dirty linen gradually falls out of the cupboard, and an exceedingly realistic ghost (played by Carmen Maura from Almodóvar's early success, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) provides a constant element of unpredictability. It is the first time Almodóvar has included a supernatural theme and he handles it with great panache.
Comedic elements are added not just by hiding the ghost under the bed, but by a scintillating script which includes gems from a quick-thinking Raimunda. "Are you hurt?" asks an ex-boss solicitously (there is blood on Penelope Cruz's neck.) "No," she answers gaily, "women's troubles," although we know he has disturbed her in the process of disposing of a dead body.
Her performance here is undoubtedly one of the high points of Cruz' career. She radiates from centre stage in most scenes, bouncing between being a wounded woman who puts on a dazzlingly brave face, to a dazzling screen icon as she slips into character when wooed by the local film crew for whom she is preparing lunch. Almodóvar also takes an occasional outing from a capable verité approach to show off cinematic artistry, with an unexpected overhead shot as Sole is surrounded by mourners, framing Cruz photogenically with mint leaves and cocktails, or zooming in to make the act of chopping red peppers a work of art that you almost want to frame and put on the wall.
Diversions are provided by moments of flamenco guitar (to which Cruz lip-synchs beautifully), the simple beauty of the old Spanish streets, and the hilarious interrogation by the friendly whore who doesn't know what Raimunda wants her to do (assuming it must be something sexual when it's not, although perhaps even more nefarious).
The plot develops with such dizzying speed you never know what's going to happen next, but as Almodóvar approaches his finale he ties everything up with Hitchcock-like revelations. Volver takes the fantastic and makes it seem not only believable but matter-of-fact. It is colourful, vivacious, and by turns full of warm comedy and deep, genuine emotion. If you only once see a subtitled movie this year, you could do much worse than Volver.
'Volver' starts at a cemetery where the women are cleaning the graves
on a windy day. Young mother Raimunda (Cruz), who after attending her
mother's grave, finds herself widowed, thanks to her daughter. Her
sister, Sole (Lola Duenas) sees a ghost of her dead mother and their
battling-with-cancer friend Augustina is in search of her own truth
about her mother. Almodovar's colourful canvas is a wonderful portrait
of women in Spain. Though it is a colourful portrait, it's dark but
somewhat humorous and appealing. Almodovar tells the story in a
sensible but somewhat simpler tone. There are some shocking revelations
but 'Volver' does not dwell on any one particular incident. It's the
story of the women.
Penelope Cruz gives one of her finest performances. It's been evident in her recent film choices (that also include 'Bandidas' that she's experimenting with different roles. As Raimunda, she speaks her mind, she's energetic, she's brave and a risk taker but at the same time she's vulnerable and is hiding a dark 'shameful' secret. Lola Duenas's Sole is a loner (but she loves her sister and niece). She's independent and satisfied with her life. The actress does nothing short of a great job. Carmen Maura is equally great as the 'ghost' bringing lots of laughter but even during Irene's own vulnerable sad moments she is outstanding. Portillo's Agustina, is a quieter lonely character who loves the sisters. The actress skillfully underplays her part and her immense talent is especially evident in the darkly humorous and somewhat sad talk-show scene. Like Almodovar's 'Todo Sobre Mi Madre', 'Volver' is about distinctive female characters and the viewer loves these women and feel involved in their stories.
Like most Almodovar's films, the soundtrack is part of the narration that adds to his slightly weird chaotic world. Similarly, Iglesias's score brings out the richness of the atmosphere created by the wonderful cinematography (thanks to excellent photography). The Spanish streets, the vivacious culture is just presented in Almodovar's unique style.
'Volver' is witty, warm, funny, colourful, disturbing, uplifting and lightly dark with a well told story and lovable characters portrayed wonderfully by the actresses.
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