We return again to the films of Pedro Almodovar. He is probably the most famous Spanish filmmaker today, and deservedly so. It was this film that kicked off my realization that films about women do not have to be chick flicks.
Volver means “to return,” and it begins with two sisters cleaning their mother’s grave. The main character, played by Penelope Cruz, tells her teenage daughter that her mother and father died in embracing. This story becomes a central point in the film when their dead mother appears to one of the sisters! The other sister also has her own struggles in her family, when her daughter kills her stepfather to stop him from raping her. This may sound heavy, but the film is surprisingly light. It is also moving without being sentimental. I am constantly amazed at how Pedro pulls off this impressive tightrope.
I do not want to give too many plot points away. The film is perfectly enjoyable spoiled, at the same time, I also want my readers to allow the film to unfold. Penelope Cruz, as I said above is in the film; which is hardly surprising. Penelope Cruz is something of a muse to Pedro. Penelope is great in this film as a concerned mother who is desperately trying to hold her life together when it seems to be coming apart at the seams (and also beginning a wonderful new phase.)
2 The Women
The Women is a film with a cast entirely made up entirely of women, though the tagline says that the film is all about men. It tells the story of Mary Haines, a wife and mother, who discovers her husband is having an affair. Her mother advises Mary to stay, assuring Mary that her husband still loves her. Mary disagrees and confronts the other woman (played masterfully by Joan Crawford) and finally divorces her husband.
The director had a tricky task in directing this film. Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford really hated each other. The tension and animosity between the two characters is not fully acting. The director actually was able to keep the two of them apart and keep the fighting to the barest minimum.
The film also shows the new infatuation and experimentation in the world of film. The film is shot almost entirely in black and white except for a scene when the women go to a fashion show. At that point, the film switches to color. The scene made me chuckle a little bit, because it shows that cinema was still very much a novelty. Sound films had been made for about 12 years, and color was also appearing in cinema. Scenes like this are amusing in a whimsical way. The directors are experimenting with the tools of cinema.
The film itself is based on the play The Women, written by Clare Booth Luce, a writer and the first woman ever to be named a US ambassador.
3 Here Comes Lola!
This is a film I saw at the Cleveland International Film Festival a few years ago. The film tells the story of a young German girl with a singer alter ego named Lola. The film follows her life in Germany; her move to the big city, her struggles to make new friends, and her Brazillian father’s attempt to open a restaurant. At difficult times, Lola escapes from the stress by pretending to be a famous singer.
The film is very joyous film and a great film for older children. I say older children because the film is entirely in German (except for a delightfully funny scene where the two girls sing in English. It’s really amusing to see what English words the girls know.) with English subtitles. A child would need to be old enough to read subtitles for films and not be frustrated by that fact.
The film explores the line between fantasy and reality, between the world (and ourselves) as we dream it, and the world (and ourselves) in reality. At the same time, it also celebrates a wonderful day, when everything works out; perhaps not as we would wish, but for the best. As the little girl says at the end, brimming with delight and joy, “Today, even Lola would be jealous of me!”