Friday, February 3, 2017

Before I Die #595: Volver (2006)

This is the 595th movie I've now seen out of the 1,187 movies on the "Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working my way through.

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Another quirky, dark, and standout movie from the Spanish master filmmaker.

The story mostly focuses on Raimunda (Penelope Cruz), whose mother has just recently passed away and who is dealing with a lazy, out-of-work husband, Paco. One day, Raimunda comes home to discover that her daughter, Paula, has killed her father after he tried to molest her. Raimunda decides that Paco was not worth anyone going to jail over, so she hides the body. While all of this is going on, Raimunda and her sister, Sole, hear about strange rumors in their superstitious home village that their mother's ghost is still seen around their aunt's house. Eventually, they discover that their mother is, indeed, alive. The fire that they had thought killed both their mother and father was actually set by their mother as an act of revenge on their father and his mistress. Now, their mother is back and offers to help her daughters, granddaughter, and an old family friend as penance for the deaths that she caused.

This is the sixth Almodovar movie I've seen, and it's just as good as any of them, which is to say excellent. It is the most recent one of his I've seen (the previous most recent had been 2002's Talk to Her), so I wasn't sure of exactly how dark and twisted things might become, given that the general trend of his career has been from quirkier and more lighthearted to more challenging and disturbing tales. Volver, though, had a great balance to it. Yes, it involves some very unpleasant subjects like attempted rape, murder by arson, and covering up a brutal slaying in self defense, but it doesn't dwell on the grisly details. As he has an amazing sense for, Almodovar can somehow create just enough sense of surreality and fantasy to make clear that we are, indeed, watching a movie. This allows us to appreciate the humor thoughout the movie, which can run from quite silly to hilariously dark.

The women of Volver - a curious mix of family members
who are looking out for one another in their own sometimes-
odd and even homicidal ways.
Not surprisingly, the aesthetics are all outstanding, which is something I've come to expect from Almodovar's movies. The actors, many of whom have long been Almodovar film regulars, are brilliant. Penelope Cruz is great, and longtime Almodovar mainstay Carmen Maura once again nails the mischievous and murdering yet empathetic mother, Irene. Nearly every scene is bursting with color and a remarkable eye for set design, making for yet another movie with the distinctive "Almodovar look." This always translates into a movie that is simply pleasing to watch.

This is an easy movie to recommend to anyone who has enjoyed Almodovar's other work. While it certainly has its darker elements, it's not as challenging or off-putting as something like Talk to Her, which is one of his more divisive films among viewers. Volver skews more towards the semi-absurd for its humor more often, making it relatively accessible.

That's 595 movies down. Only 593 movies to go before I can die.