Monday, December 11, 2006


The newest film of Almodovar is called Volver, which means turn back. In this film he uses at the central role one of his favorite actresses, Penelope Cruz. For one more time Almodovar is focusing on women. The central theme of the film is the relationship between mothers and daughters. After her death, the mother returns to resolve the issues she had with one of her daughters. In the mean time her daughter (Penelope) is trying to put her life into order. She tries to hide the body of her lover, who was murdered by her own daughter when he tried to murder her, to earn some money and get on her feet again.

Almodovar always had a flair for soap opera, surreal and kitsch. As the years go by I feel that his aesthetics change into a milder tone. The extravagant and the high tones that accompanied his older films like Kika or the Women on the Verge of a break down have faded away. Strong colors and even glamorous lighting remain as a symbol of the culture of Spain, but the kitsch has definitely departed. Moreover the surrealism and irony of his older films has also mellowed down. Hints of his old sarcasm remain but are not so obvious anymore. In this film for example there is a scene of criticism against the talk shows that are popular on tv these days. A woman who suffers from cancer is invited to talk about he scandals of her village. A hot subject for a tv show since sex and murder is included. When she refuses to reveal her secrets the show woman reminds her that her reward for the shown would be a treatment for cancer at Memorial. The problem is that the more his film become mild and aesthetically pleasing, the more they resemble to a soap opera. His scripts always referred to issues that could well be the central theme of a soap opera: family problems and erotic relationships. Irony and surrealism managed to differentiate his film form the tv-series. His new glossier style has made his films easier to watch and acceptable to many people that were appalled by the extravagance of his old ones. Is this necessarly a minus, though? Why should a worthy film be a difficult film? If Almodovar manages to convey his messages with a milder tone why shouldn’t he?

I enjoyed Volver. I enjoyed the fact that it begins in a surreal, metaphysical way taking us "hostages" in its narration and making us believe at the supernatural only to end up in a completely logic and natural explanation. I like the fact that the film had cleverness in its script. It conveyed clearly the feelings of the people involved in the story, and ends up with a healing touch. On the other hand, I miss some of the sheer audacity that Almodovar demonstrated in the past. If Almodovar could combine the new aesthetic with the irony and surrealism of the past, I personally would be a happier spectator. Volver, however, remains a good and an enjoyable film that is worth seeing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Babel:a story about communication and understanding

Alejandro González Iñárritu’ s new film has the same style as his other films (Amores Peros, 21grams). Babel his latest film is also the story of a story of intertwined events. A woman-tourist in Morocco is shot. While her husband tries to take her to a hospital and save her life we see in flash back the problems the couple had. Moreover we follow he story of the Mexican nanny of their children who is accused of kidnapping them and is exported back to Mexico and the story of a deaf girl in Japan who lives with her father after her mother committed suicide.

The editing between the three stories is ingenious and has great rhythm and pace. It manages to create tension and anxiety and maintain it throughout the whole film. The film has the personal style and aesthetic of Inarritu. Sharp images that convey the culture and the way of living in four completely different countries, Morocco, Mexico, Japan and United States.

The connection between is rather loose and has no real meaning. The meaning of the film could have been served equally well by three completely separate stories. In all cases Inarittu explores cases of miscommunication and misunderstanding. The couple of Brand Pit and Cate Blanchett have failed to communicate and understand each other after the tragic death of their baby son. They take the trip to Morocco trying to be alone and to re-discover each other but it takes am almost fatal incident (the shooting of the wife) in order for them to be able to really talk and resolve their past issues. The play of the children with the shot gun is mistaken for a terrorist act. As a result the relationships between America and Morocco suffer. The Mexican nanny takes her charges along with her in Mexico for her sons’s wedding. When she tries to cross the borders back to America the border patrol thinks that she has kidnapped the children. Her nephew that drives the car feels threaten and from there and on everything goes downhill. The children are abandoned in the desert, almost dying from thirst and the nanny is deported back to Mexico and is treated as criminal. The initial misunderstanding that leads to destruction in this story takes place in the conversation between the border patrol and the nephew. In the third story a girl is trying to communicate without language. She is deaf and mute. Even in this case the results are not very encouraging. The girl misinterprets human contact with sex. In all cases fear and prejudice uphold communication and understanding. An accident with a gun is thought to be a terrorist act because terrorism is expected from Arabs. The Mexican woman is treated like a suspect at the border and fear leads her to some unwise decisions. Only the children who haven’t learned to be afraid or to be suspicious remain unconcerned and are ready to socialise at the wedding and have one. Only when the police start to go after them do they start to feel that their nanny might not be such a good person after all. The obvious conclusion of the film is that fear and prejudice lead to misunderstanding and even to violence and war. A rather obvious conclusion, wouldn’t you say?

All and all Babel is a well thought film. It has the signs of a true auteur. Inaritu definitely has his own style and his own agenda, which is a good thing. On the other hand, and this is the only complain i have about this film- Inaritu has done this kinf of film again and better. Somehow Babel fails to communicate in an inner level with the spectator. It remains a good film but a rather cold film. A film with great intellect and less feeling.