It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey
the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog,
passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.
To those who have come to trust
The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial
tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped
lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects
and interest categories where others feared to tread.
Please keep Steve's friends and family in your
thoughts and prayers.
It's a belated Film Notes this week, but I did have the opportunity to see Volver on Thursday night. Typical of Almodovar, the specifics of the plot defy a linear description, but, once again, his common preoccupations are to the fore: the hidden, perverse secrets of families, the pragmatism and survival skills of women in a male dominated society and the inability of people to communicate with the ones they love.
Some reviews of the movie have described Volver as a lesser effort than recent successes like All About My Mother and Talk to Her, and, perhaps, this is true, but only because these earlier films were so compelling. In this one, the plot is centered around two sisters, Penelope Cruz as Raimunda and Lola Duenas as Sole. At the beginning, we observe them cleaning the gravestones of their parents, a local custom, and, shortly thereafter, at the home of their elderly aunt. Suspicions arise that their mother (Almodovar veteran Carmen Maura) has spiritually returned to care for her.
As I watched the first 45 minutes of Volver, I thought that there are few directors and film crews that have developed the mastery that Almodovar and his team display here. It is a consistent thread that runs through all of his recent films. They create a space, a mood whereby the actors can present naturalistic, subtle performances. There is the appearance of an effortlessness, an ease to the unfolding of the narrative, which is usually the result of hard work and experience. Even the most mundane scene in an Almodovar film (or is it, especially the most mundane scene?) is the closest thing to a convincing representation of the emotional and physical sense of our times.
Here, as in All About My Mother, one of the beneficiaries is Penelope Cruz, and the comparison of her roles in these two movies reveals that she can, in fact, act and act well. In All About My Mother, Cruz successfully conveyed the naivete of a nun that fell in love with a transsexual, and subsequently matured, while, here, she is convincing as a tough as nails woman who saves herself and her daughter, while salvaging her relationships with her sister and mother. Hollywood, it seems, never figured out what to do with her.
There is also an interesting social dimension to this film. In the past, Almodovar has attributed the presence of dysfunctional families, sexual perversity and the inability of people to honestly communicate as manifestations of the personal repression of the Franco era. Here, the family secrets, the personal tragedies, transpired after Franco's death. In other words, he has, whether intentionally or unintentionally, associated them with the Republic. The political structure may have changed, but the emotional rhythms, disruptions and deceptions of everyday life, deeply ingrained in Spanish life (or is it all of our lives?) are not transformed so readily.
P. S. There is a major political error in this post. What is it?