Friday, May 25, 2007

Almodóvar's "Volver"

Subject: Cinema
I really should treat myself to Pedro Almodóvar's films more often. In fact, it's been years since I've seen one. In fact, I may have only seen two others, and one of those was the big hit "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", way back when I was in film school. I wish I could remember what the other one was. (I searched but couldn't come up with what it was. My memory fails me. *sigh*)

At any rate, "Volver" is a tight and simple little story. It opens in a graveyard, where a small army of widows are, by the tradition as explained in the film, cleaning their husbands (and thus, their own) crypts. Cut to a small cadre of far younger, and waaaay more attractive young ladies (as lead by Penelope Cruz) cleaning the crypt of their parents, doing their duty. And duty and superstition are the backdrop of the show, so it's a good setup. The rules of the on-screen world are clearly defined by the on-screen actions.

This is a bit of a dark comedy (go figure), with a healthy dose of (what the meta-joke early on reveals) "women's troubles". I really can't say much more without spoiling it, but that little meta reference was laugh-out-loud hilarious, for what it's worth). It really is, though, a show about women, their mothers, their relationships (or lack thereof), an all that. Which is pretty much what I remember of most any Almodóvar film. Why a guy is such an authority on the subject is probably a bit suspect, and lord knows I'm really not a qualified judge either, but it seems to work really well.

You see, there's one aspect of what he's done, in this film specifically, that I don't normally associate with the other films I watch; at least, not so obviously. That one thing:


I swear, the empathy I felt for each of the lead women characters in the situation they were in was palpable and comforting, despite how absurd the overall scenario actually played out. That duality expressed a level of intuition that is rare in most dramatic portrayal. Admittedly, it was simple enough that even I could grasp it, but I think that was a great feature of it, because that means it Kept It Simple.

At any rate, the story was entertaining, the character performances were great, and the overall experience was worth the time. Fun and insightful, though not entirely profound. Which is fine.

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