-(A husband, in bed, trying to kiss and fondle unresponsive wife) Are you angry?
-(Wife, just back from the village) No, I’m worried about my aunt.
-(Sudden off-screen heavy breathing, the sexually aroused husband masturbates instead)
Or maybe she was upset with her bowling score, same emotional impact. If you think this is not frank, daring movie imagery, I share your feeling. This is a particularly poor attempt at depraved yet electrifying humor. Also, Penelope Cruz never takes her gypsy earrings off during this or any other scene in this brocade of preposterous clichés and phony intimacy by way of a small pee here, a little fart there, close-ups of garbage pales, a bloodied (!) knife, the making of crème caramel or gratuitous overhead shots of the star’s pushed up breasts. Dear woman even bursts into spontaneous song in an inn she spontaneously opened for a film crew casually dropping in while her husband rests inside a freezer after trying to rape their daughter, and having found himself at the receiving end of the youngster’s kitchen knife. A lovely and spontaneous young girl, all smiles, having a terrific time listening to her Mom's performance, sad only about the absence of castanets and a rose between guitar players’ teeth while her old lady badly lip-syncs her blah-blah song. Not upset whatsoever about the bloody murder she perpetrated hours earlier, with a bit of luck the subject of a real movie one day.
I was once given a promotional leaflet urging people, in English, to come and join an evening of Spanish Clap. I was shocked, only later gathering it referred to some Flamenco show, the clapping of the hands, palmas, rather badly translated for us guiris, bloody foreigners. This film has the quality of that leaflet. Way too widowy, very 'province', a feeble attempt at a slice of Bernarda Alba’s house and Garcia Lorca’s heavy duty drama, but then it is full of slices of this and slices of that by way of awkward transition in a desperate attempt to cash in on Penelope Cruz incomprehensible popularity.
VOLVER is the name of the song, meaning ‘Return(ing)’, referring to a dead and buried mother/grandmother whose 'ghost' is matter-of-factly asked by Penelope’s sister “Oh Hi Mom, is there anything you want me to do that you couldn’t do in life?” but (re)turning out to be very much alive and kicking, helping out same sister in her beauty salon, making this query somewhat astonishing.
In other words, too much Spanish cuteness, mainly for the benefit of foreign viewers some of who at one time may have visited Torremolinos, in school read all about bulls by a chap named Hemingway, and now handed this dark brown VOLVER fodder. What are they to make of Spain? Is this it? All there's to it? All those pathetic stereo-types real? The problem here that this is not a parody; it has the premise of a comedy but erroneously aspires to serious drama while utterly failing mainly because the premise contains so much derisory expediency. And even then this work is at least 40 minutes too long, padded with detail of absolutely no interest, including a puzzling ongoing struggle to get rid of the body of the rapist husband. Plus there’s been a similar incident in the family, involving a grandfather, way back. The score so far: Incestuous Rapes 2 - Movie 0, but at least we’re spared the sight of a sobbing mother and daughter getting led away by some dutiful Guardia Civil policeman. You see, that would have been far too predictable…
Ghosts don’t cry, says the returned-from-death grandmother. But they do, they do, especially when trapped inside an insipid movie leaving one with nothing but a totally miscast star, too pretty to be a sloven peasant and too mechanical despite buckets of onions induced tears. It is clear to any serious film buff that Penelope Cruz cannot carry a movie, her l'Oréal hair, doe eyes and sultry lips better suited perhaps for even shallower TV situation comedy. As for Mr Almodovar, he seems to have nothing left after his neurosis based early successes, sinking to this level of Spanish formula. And any award nomination here completely out of line, a reVOLVER what I’d like to get. Or better still Visconti’s immortal Il Gattopardo, The Leopard, now there for you is noble cinematic craft dealing with provincial decadence.