Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Volver" 2006 Pedro Almodovar

Growing up in a small Spanish village, Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) and her sister had long heard tales of ghosts, and of the madness visited upon the villagers by the dry East winds. Years before, their parents had died in a fire driven by this wind. Now, returning to bury their long senile and helpless aunt they hear rumours that she had survived with the aid of the ghost of their dead mother Irene (Carmen Maura). Suffering problems of their own, Irene's daughters now become the recipients of her spectral aid.

This latest of Pedro Almodóvar's works, while superior in many ways to his last two movies, Talk to Her and Bad Education, still suffers from the same flaw they exhibited, a theme largely focused on the exploration of victimhood. Nevertheless, the film is visually brilliant, and the characters, while all victims, do for the most part overcome their travails. The film has what amounts to a happy ending, and does not suffer the morbid perversity of his two prior works. Fans of Almodóvar will want to see this movie if only for his characteristic use of brilliant color which makes each scene a chromatic adventure. Carmen Maura's "return" to the cast of Almodovar will also be a welcome treat for those who remeber her from the halcyon days of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. While coherent and, with murder and melodrama, sufficiently interesting to keep one's attention, the story suffers from undeveloped subplots and elements such as drug use, lesbianism, and a dubbed but strikingly beautiful song by Cruz which seem to have been added in simply because these devices are what one expects from an Almodóvar movie.

While described as a comedy, this movie did not once make me laugh, although the scene where Cruz sings "Volver" (return), unaware that her mother's ghost is listening, did move me. And another gratifying scene occurs when one of the supporting characters, dying of cancer, does the right thing on a Spanish version of the Jerry Springer show.

I bought this movie on DVD on the day it was released, and as an Almodóvar fan I enjoyed this film as a return to the form he exhibited in The Flower of My Secret his best work since the excellent Tie me up, Tie me Down (Átame). While certainly worth renting, I cannot recommend that non-afficionados spend their money to purchase this film.

Here is the studio trailer from YouTube:

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