Video Vault: Volver

2006: Pedro Almodovar
Rated R – 121 minutes
Vault Rating: 7.5

Director Pedro Almodovar is in the front rank of modern directors. Of his films that Vault has taken in, they are mostly about the human condition when stemming from some sort of affected or muted affair of the heart.

Check the impeccable 2002 effort, “Talk to Her,” where two men become friends while caring for their women who are both in deep comas. Or try the more recent “Bad Education,” where the shattering effects of a noir love-triangle radiate through decades. Almodovar’s films are most succinctly talked about in terms of passion, obsession and temptation.

“Volver” (translation: “to return”) is set in Spain and deals with a number of women and the men who … oh, how shall we say it … pass through their lives. But the film is not particularly about these male counterparts. It is rather about how these ladies, young and old alike, this generation and that, deal.

OK, I can see the action movie set who don’t like reading the subtitles of Spanish language films clicking on another page already. Wait. It gets better …

The principal character, Raimunda, is portrayed by the lovely Penelope Cruz. She is a hard-working woman (She has taken over a vacant restaurant next door without actually notifying the owner.) who endures much and lives, with the other women in play, beneath a slowly revealed overcast of secrets such as one might find in a really good latin soap opera.

Raimunda has to deal with the troubles of her sister, neighbors, her swelteringly beautiful teen daughter, her lecherous husband who quickly turns up dead and spends most of the film awaiting a fitting burial, and even the return of her dead mother, who longs to resolve more than a little unfinished business. Raimunda is the very likeness of the strong woman who, despite being at her wit’s end on many fronts, perseveres and even triumphs, smiling grimly all the while.

This film confounds me at the way Almodovar combines melodrama, the fantasy of a sort of ghost story and comedy all in one while the truths driving the action remain powerfully sad. Despite these many worlds of misery, I laughed. A lot.

And that is the principal charm here. The viewer is giddily drowned in this strange world with so many evolving elements that you, A) just cannot see what is coming next, and B) must stick around to find out.

It is a brightly executed film, full of color and style and a brilliant cast of women.

If you have not seen a film by Amodovar … We can call him simply by his last name like we might Fellini or Bergman … then “Volver” is a really good place to start. If you would like to enjoy an actress of immense talent and beauty, please, I implore you, start right here.

To the Vault-Mail!

Dear Video Vault,
I’m so glad to hear that you loved this movie (“Children of Men” V.V. 4/17/07 – Vault Rating: 7). Rose and I saw it on the opening weekend and wondered why no one saw it. What is wrong with this country? From start to finish, I thought it was great!

Ben from Punxsutawney

Dear Ben,
Vault is a great fan of films of this type. There were some elements, though, that dampened my enjoyment of it. It was so dark in it’s scope that it was almost depressing. I think the reason I felt that way is that it is plays less like a science-fiction film than a drama. In sci-fi, you can suspend belief. In the present case, somehow without the veneer of fantasy, I just got chills. It was an uncomfortable film to watch. In THAT regard, though, “Children of Men” walks a really unconventional line.

I was also mightily impressed by the minutia in the film. There was a lot of noise in the film and background that, like in “Blade Runner,” if you really think about it, it starts to blow your mind. Little things like public I.D. scanners, newsstands, camera surveillance and an almost 1984ish backdrop of continual official information that lent a malevolent sense of oppression to the film.
Very effective. Not entirely pleasant. But very effective.


Video Vault: Gravedancers
Video Vault: Children of Men

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