I still can't believe that it's 2015, but OMG, it's already near the end of January! This means it's time to post my Blind Spot entry for the month, which happens to be Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother.
Let's just get on with it!
It took me a while to get into Pedro Almodovar’s films. They have a very distinct tonal quality to them. That whole ‘glorified Telenovela’ thing can be, for the lack of a better word, awkward to watch. Sometimes these tones can make his films feel like a really glossy Soap Opera, and I’ve never been one to embrace that form of storytelling. But, his status and reputation within the cinematic community always had me sure that I should attempt to get more acquainted with his work, to try a little harder.
It’s funny how when you start to explore something you aren’t initially comfortable with, you start to discover nuances and details and tidbits of merit that help grow your appreciation for it, despite your initial reservations. I’ve noticed this in myself many times when it comes to film. When I first started exploring film as more than just a medium of immediate entertainment, I was urged to explore foreign cinema, which to me only existed (at that point) in laughable Kung-Fu movies and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. The idea of subtitles just didn’t appeal to me at all and so I had no real interest in digging in, and yet I did and I found this whole new world. My preconceived notions that lead to initial observations were soon dismissed for a real appreciation. For instance, I initially considered Asian cinema loud, obnoxious and overtly theatrical (granted, some of it is), but the more I saw, the more I found such rich texture and such variations of tone I took for granted initially.
So, the same can be said for Almodovar.
So far, I’d only seen six of his films, ‘All About My Mother’ being my seventh. Like I said, he can be a bit much to take at first, but as these six films rest in my mind they help build a real tapestry of appreciation for his gifts as a filmmaker and the sheer originality and unwavering vision within his work. Almodovar loves color, flamboyancy, drama and women, and he uses them all in such distinct and vibrant ways. While I don’t always react to his films with unabashed delight, I do get a little giddy now when I watch one of his films, for I know what to expect and I know what to look for.
I really liked ‘All About My Mother’. This is one of those film that I have felt, for a long time, that I needed to watch, mainly because so many tout it as one of Almodovar’s finest films, lauding it in a year that is lauded as one of the greatest cinematic years (the greatest, by many) since 1939; 1999. The fact that I had sought out some of his more obscure titles and yet hadn’t found the time to see this one was a shame on my part, but I’ve finally rectified that. Anchored by a truly inspired ensemble, Almodovar’s black comedy of sorts covers so many characters and so many sub-plots and so many hidden agendas that keeping up can be exhausting, but the finished product is so splendidly delivered that I can’t help but smile when thinking about it. Whether we’re lamenting alongside Manuela as she grieves the loss of her son, or we’re secretly judging Huma and her oddly distracting relationship with the troubled Nina, or we’re rooting for Rosa and her desperate situation or trying to figure Agrado out, we are constantly IN this movie, which is something so refreshing.
I can’t say that I loved this movie, but I will say that it never let me stop watching; and I didn’t want to.
Some of Almodovar’s flagrant touches don’t come off as smooth as in other films, and I have to say that I’ve always somewhat preferred him when he reigns it in, just a little, but his attention to character detail is just unreal. He creates such lived in worlds for his actresses, all of them so full and ripe regardless of their actual place within the plot. Even Agrado, who is far from a main character, has her moment and her completeness which all makes her feel so whole and real. You understand these women because Almodovar understands these women, and that love for his characters (even the troubled, hurtful ones) shows up so well in these films. In fact, his finest films, that I’ve seen, are the ones where he allows women to take center stage. Throw a man in, and things start to get murky.
Roth is outstanding; such a powerfully layered performance, and Marisa Paredes and Penelope Cruz are also just wonderful.
There is a lot going on here, and it doesn’t always mesh as cleanly as I would have liked it too (just edit a little bit), but overall, ‘All About My Mother’ is a beautiful dissection of these women, what makes them tick, what makes them whole and what unites them.