2006 - Dir: Pedro Almodóvar
Shown at FeckenOdeon 2 on 17th April, 2009
“Volver” catches director Pedro Almodóvar and star Penélope Cruz at the peak of their respective powers, in service of a layered, thought-provoking film. This melodrama is set in a Spain tourists rarely see - a Spain where the daily soap is just as important as “Corrie” is in certain parts of Doncaster. While there’s a leisurely middle section in modern-day Madrid, the heart and soul of the story takes place in a small, windy town in La Mancha that seems stuck in a time warp. It’s an ordinary, everyday world where the abnormal happens to normal people... and how they cope with ghosts, murder, illness and incest. What is most unexpected about "Volver" is that it's not really about murder or the afterlife, but simply incorporates those awkward developments into the problems of daily living. The characters approach their dilemmas not with metaphysics but with common sense. A dead woman turns up as a ghost and is immediately absorbed into her family's ongoing problems: So what took her so long?
Penélope Cruz won Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes by the ton for this performance and it’s fascinating to see an established Hollywood star working in her native language. As it did with Sophia Loren in the 1950s, Hollywood has tried to force Cruz into a series of show-biz categories, when she is obviously most at home playing a woman like the ones she knew, grew up with and could have become - and, yes, her bum is padded in this film!
Director Almodóvar has electrified Spanish cinema over the past twenty years. From early beginnings, when he subsidised his film making by selling bric-a-brac in Barcelona’s flea markets, his film have been stylish and attention grabbing. He came to international prominence in the late 1980s with the hard hitting “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and “Tie me up, Tie me down”. His films are colourful and sensitive and often feature strong women - apparently his mother was a strong woman. Asked about the plethora of shots featuring Ms Cruz’s cleavage in “Volver”, Almodóvar nodded happily and said "Yes, I am a gay man, but I love breasts."
The “ghost” is played by veteran actress Carmen Maura. She’s a long standing Almodovar favourite who headed an art gallery and performed in night-clubs before starting her acting career. She’s the great-grand-niece of the Spanish Prime Minister (pre-Franco), Antonio Maura and won the "Goya Award" (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscar) in 1989, 1991, 2001 and 2007.