Monday, January 08, 2007

Va Va Voom Volver

Rather than write about Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie, Volver, starring Penélope Cruz, (go see the movie,) or the delights of seeing Penélope lisp her way through pure Cathstilian (go see the movie,) or the depiction of strong, self-sufficient women (go see the movie,) or the contrasts between life in a small village versus the larger urban village (:::tapping out with pencil "go see the movie":::,) what I kept thinking about while viewing this film was how much it reminded me of the Neorealism films from Italy following World War II. Neorealist directors like Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti and Fellini.

There are certain traits that make neorealism film distinct: you will generally see a cast of nonprofessionals with known actors playing against type, shot on location mostly in poor neighborhoods and the countryside showing life among the impoverished performing fairly mundane tasks.

All of these things were present in Volver. At the start of Volver, Cruz, as Raimunda, is scrubbing her parents grave with the other ladies in her childhood village on the assigned day to tidy the cemetery.

Having read in advance that she was wearing a prosthetic butt, and given the director's habit of lingering shots on her swaying ass and cleavage, I was definitely on the lookout for the va va voom factors. I kept thinking about Anna Magnani, and sure enough, later in the film, there is one scene where the mother (ghost or real?) of Raimunda is watching an old film of Visconti's called Bellissima starring Anna Magnani in all of her black slip splendor.

When I would watch these old fims on television as a child, it seemed to me that Magnani spent the bulk of her film career wearing a black slip, particularly in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo, also starring Burt Lancaster.

Early Sophia (Loren) or Anna or any of the other Italian actresses of that era gave off an earthiness and hair tousled realism that was very appealing to see in an actress, and they weren't afraid of looking bad in the name of art. It can still be seen today in films like Notes on a Scandal with Judi Dench or Kate Winslet's frustrated frump in Little Children.

I'm seeing this film rather late in the day. It has been out a while now. Nonetheless, going to an early in the day screening, weeks after release, and the theatre was still packed. Almodóvar seems to have a deep understanding of women: how they care for each other, the ties that bind, and sacrifices a woman will make to spare her family.

In the past, I had zero interest in Penélope Cruz, I had never seen an Almodóvar film, but Volver has turned me around completely in my thinking about the actress and her director. With themes of family and community, of finding personal strength and a healing that can come even from beyond the grave, there is something in this film for everyone.


Blogger I-66 said...

Must... see... the movie...

Must... see... the movie...

Braaaainssss... braaaainssss...

12:29 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Laughing. Not brains, you Zombie, but plenty of T&A. ;)

12:31 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I loved that movie so much. I've watched a bunch of his movies--it all started with the foreign movie section in my college's library. Every film, I have loved.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post, Cube.

1:23 PM  
Blogger KassyK said...

I am so excited for this movie...I've been trying to carve out a time to see it myself being a huge Penelope Cruz fan (her Spanish movies particularly All About My Mother) and Almodovar is one of my top 4 directors of ALL time.

Have you seen Talk to Her? Brilliance.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

God I love me some Fellini.

Funny - I have the same opinion of Penelope Cruz that you said you did. I don't get it with her, but okay, maybe this is the movie to make me get it.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I was delighted to see this review since I have been ambivalent about it. Couldn't believe she was all that the hype declared she is in this film. But perhaps she just needed a great director.

Thanks, WC.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Megarita said...

Huge fan of Almodovar. I, too, had doubts about Cruz until I saw her in a few of his films. She can be astonishingly lovely.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Ryane said...

That was a good synopsis.

Generally speaking, I do not like Penelope Cruz and do not think she is a very good actress, but I have to say I am now intrigued enough to go and check this movie out.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

MA: Obviously I was behind the times on this director, but I'll be playing catch-up.

Kassy: You'll love it.

Velvet: I was totally indifferent to Cruz until I saw this film. And yes to Fellini. Love so much about his work.

Mega: Yes.

Ryane: It turned me around about her. I only knew her from her American work which did nothing for me.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I promise I'll go see it. Wow.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Alejandra said...

Like you, I've never been a huge Penelope fan, but now I'm a little intrigued and will make sure to check out the film Gorgeous pictures that you posted too... I love that classic look

10:25 AM  
Anonymous hedonistic pleasureseeker said...

Just a little Volver trivia: Penelope was so tiny they had to pad her ass to make her look more "realistic." It's supposed to be a very good movie, though! Now I have to go see it.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Reya: I think you'll like it.

Ale: She never did anything for me in her American films, but this was enlightening.

Hed: I mention in my piece that her butt is fake. The director definitely lingers on her cleavage and ass throughout the film. She is a tiny stick, but very much top heavy.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous CreoleInDC said...

I was wondering if this movie was going to be good. I might hafta check it out now. Thanks!

11:20 AM  

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