Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review From My Collection: Volver

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

In Volver, Pedro Almodóvar takes on the ghosts of the past – literal in the case of his female protagonists; metaphorical in terms of his home country. He tackles so many subjects, plot elements, genres, and themes (many of which have formed the basis of his previous work) that the film should winde up crushed under the weight of its own indulgence. But Almodóvar, mixing elements of melodrama, Spanish telenovelas, magical realism, comedy, thriller, and mystery has a fleeting directorial hand, keeping everything so expertly balanced that the film remains equally light in spirit and severe in tone.

Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) is a working class mother, but like any good Almodóvar heroine, she fulfills several roles simultaneously: daughter; sister; wife. One night she is unexpectedly forced to cover up a horrific act in order to protect her teenage daughter. Meanwhile, all the women in her family go through their lives deceiving people in various ways. There’s the ghost of her mother (Carmen Maura) living unnoticed with her aunt; Raimunda’s sister, Sole (Lola Dueñas) covering up the eventual discovery of this strange phantasm (if that’s even what she is), and the long ago crimes committed and concealed that now begin to surface. The ghosts of our past will always come back to haunt us, Almodóvar seems to be saying with this movie that has little room for anything not directly related to the lives of women. Men are given short shrift in their minor roles before being disposed of, sometimes quite literally. Even a dashing young man who flirts with Raimunda, suggesting a romantic subplot, disappears as abruptly as he arrived.

Overall this is one of Almodóvar’s most purely entertaining films, eschewing all the weighty melodrama that made most of his films more difficult to sit through. It is wickedly funny at times and exhibits a beautiful and intimate understanding of Spanish life and superstition in los pueblos.

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