Volver Pedro Almodóvar

The recent melodramatic films of Pedro Almodovar have sent some of his earlier followers into a tailspin — one of my colleagues rued the loss of the director’s "impudence” and his disappointed brethren are legion. Perhaps this is true, but there was never a time in his latest, Volver, that I wasn’t beguiled by his on the sleeve emotionalism and trademark chromatic derring-do. The plot begins with Raimunda (Penelope Cruz), who one day comes home to find her husband dead after attempting to molest their daughter (Yolande Coho); the ensuing efforts to hide the body soon uncover the interference of what may be Raimunda’s mother (Carmen Maura), who died some years earlier in a fire with her husband. It wouldn’t be cricket to reveal the rest, but rest assured that the feelings are big and the sets are as hyper-real as they come. I suppose there’s something a little too writerly about the film (and the director’s films of late); one can hear the steam pouring out of Almodovar’s ears as he puts down his sensationalistic story and its many declarations of emotional intent. But though I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, it’s still an immensely satisfying piece of work. There’s an outpouring of love for its female protagonists and almost no significant male characters: it’s a celebration of female resilience, especially for a filmmaker who’s had his share of run-ins with feminists. Plus, the micro-managed art direction all but blasts you out of your seat with its searing palette and immaculately vivid design. If it doesn’t exactly illuminate, it shimmers just the same. It’s a festival crowd-pleaser that gives good movie without insulting your intelligence in the bargain. (Mongrel Media)