Parallel Mothers

Milena Smit and Penélope Cruz

“Transgressive” is a word bandied about a fair bit when it comes to Pedro Almodóvar, but Parellel Mothers (Madres Paralelas) again shows that for him it’s a two-way street. His films are different, unusual, unconventional – yes. And yet in the relationships they portray not that far from the everyday, not that far from what we’re used to, unfrightening. At least since his international breakthrough with 1987’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, it’s been one of his main concerns to show how like the rest of us his exotic hothouse creatures actually are. They love, they laugh, they cry, they’re human. Which is particularly the case with this ripe melodrama … Read more

The Human Voice

Tilda Swinton with axe

If you’ve never seen a screen version of Jean Cocteau’s short one-hander The Human Voice before, this one, starring Tilda Swinton and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, is a good place to start. There are plenty of others. Shelby Satterthwaite appeared in a Canadian version in 2019, Rosamund Pike in an adaptation by Patrick Kennedy in 2018. There’s a Spanish language one starring Karina Gidi from 2016, a sung version from 1985 with the soprano Elisabeth Söderström as “the Woman”, even one starring Ingrid Bergman from 1966 directed by Ted Kotcheff (who also gave us Rambo in First Blood, the great Aussie shocker Wake in Fright, and ur-bozo comedy Weekend at Bernie’s). A South … Read more

Volver

Penelope Cruz in Volver

Pedro Almodóvar is bang back on form in a film celebrating a way of life he’s spent the best part of his artistic life revolting against – family centred, non-cosmopolitan, conservative, Catholic. Well, Generalissimo Franco has been dead a while now. The word Volver means “return” in Spanish, and if Almodóvar is returning to something he long ago rejected – with a fair degree of tenderness (ah, maturity) – Penelope Cruz is also back in a Spanish speaking role, in her home country, in the sort of film she started out in, a drama with its feet in familiar soil but its head who knows where (see Abre los Ojos). It’s set in … Read more