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CANNES 2006 Competition / Spain

Pedro's "chicas"

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Pedro's "chicas"

In competition at the Cannes Film Festival, Pedro Almodóvar 16th film is filled with ghosts who return (the titleVolver [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Agustín Almodóvar
interview: Carmen Maura
interview: Pedro Almodóvar
interview: Pénélope Cruz
film profile
]
, taken from the famous tango by Gardel, in fact means “to return”), and received a minute-long applause at this morning’s press screening.

Ghosts with a murky past full of unconfessable truths, which the Spanish director handles with density and (above all) a lightness he has not expressed for some time. So much so that the first laughs come almost immediately, in the film’s opening scene, set in a windy cemetery.

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It is easy then to compare this to Pedro’s own “return” to his better moments, when tragedy in his films was blended and diluted with the most hilarious comedy, like tomatoes and peppers being prepared for a good gazpacho. This formula has had so many imitators it has almost become a genre of its own of contemporary cinema.

And all the ingredients are here: a crime, a fatal illness, maternal love, trashy TV, marijuana, hair dressers, antique dolls, music, withering dialogue and such monstrous men (in the sense of males) that they hover over the film like malevolent spirits.

For his return, then, Almodóvar chose to reunite the best chicas of his films: Carmen Maura, a splendid almost-60 year-old and the director’s former muse, whom he banished some years ago after a fight; Penélope Cruz, who already starred in Live Flesh and All About My Mother and here fills the screen like "an Italian actress of the 1950s" (Almodóvar’s words in our interview) with her gestures, décolleté, lips, dark and always moving eyes. Assailed by enormous difficulties in life, her character of the hard-working young mother is strong and filled with an unassailable joie de vivre.

In his delightful game of buildings blocks, Almodóvar even pays homage to cinema: a crew is shooting a film within the film, and in the last few minutes, Italy’s greatest actress, Anna Magnani, appears on TV (in Bellissima), observed in wide-eyed and dewy-eyed admiration by Spain’s greatest actress, Carmen Maura.

For more information, please see Cineuropa’s Focus on Volver, with an interview with the director, the actresses and the producer.

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(Translated from Italian)

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