Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Cannes Film Festival 2006: “Volver” is magnificence

At the 59th Cannes Film Festival (May 17-28 2006), there was another movie I just loved.

I immensely enjoyed watching Spanish master Pedro Almodovar’s Volver” (To Return) for presenting the sheer joy of cinema.

Almodovar (“Bad Education”, “Talk To Her”, “All About My Mother” and “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down” among other directorial ventures) focuses on a family of women that has migrated from La Mancha to Madrid in search of better times.

At the centre of this is Raimunda (Penelope Cruz), who is hardworking, young and vivacious, but with a lazy husband and an attractive daughter.

Penelope Cruz, Yohana Cobo, and Lola Duenas in Pedro Almodovar's "Volver".

Raimunda’s elder sister is Sole, who runs a salon. She goes back to La Mancha for her aunt’s funeral. There, Sole finds that her dead mother had been taking care of the aunt during her last days.

Almodovar spins a griping yarn around these women, complete with a dead body in the freezer and a walking-talking ghost. He lightens the mood by delightful doses of humour (thanks to the ghost). He tackles grave issues, such as attempted rape, murder and want without ignoring their gravity. By stretching the power of sheer invention, the Spanish master makes sure that his viewer is not bogged down by pain and pessimism.

Events move quickly, and we see revelations and revelry: Raimunda tells her daughter who her real father is, and a film crew on a location shoot offers the pretty mother running a restaurant a chance to earn money and have fun.

for more visuals  click

“Volver’s” opening sequence is significantly indicative of what we can expect: a battery of widows and daughters can be seen cleaning the gravestones of their departed ones in a La Mancha cemetery. The windswept day with dead leaves falling against a backdrop of blue and grey skies, and the women themselves in animated small talk to relive the tedium of the task and the agony of loss convey Almodovar’s skill at creating a refreshing celluloid cocktail of fact and fantasy.

Almodovar’s five women characters -- who together clinched the Best Actress Award, with the helmer himself getting one for Best Screenplay at Cannes – form the microcosmic part of a whole, where whimsical humour merges with stark drama to produce a winning streak.

Penelope Cruz gives her best-till-date performance. Expressive and breathtakingly beautiful, she captures our attention and heart in a role where sorrow and grief cast a shadow on her youthful exuberance. What emerges out of all this is sheer sublimity of cinema.

Says Almodovar of his undoubtedly favourite actress: “She has strength and fragility. And she has beauty…Those eyes, her neck, her shoulders and her breasts…Penelope has got one of the most spectacular cleavages in world cinema…Looking at her has been one of the great pleasures of this shoot”.

“Pedro, I love you”, shouted Penelope, blowing kisses at him, from the stage while she was accepting the trophy.

A love story that translated itself into magnificent cinema.

(Posted on this website on June 12 2006)