The one-name auteur may seem like a relic of the glory days of world cinema — Truffaut, Fellini, Kurosawa. But Almodovar — or if you’re on more intimate terms “Pedro” — is one of the few filmmakers working today whose single name conjures up a consistent, colorful and personal vision.
In the 1980s, with films such as “Pepi, Luci, Bom,” “Law of Desire,” and his breakout hit “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” Almodovar established his predilection for campy worlds bursting with sex, surprising set decoration and a sharp sense of humor. Together with more recent award-winning films such as “All About My Mother” and “Talk to Her,” Almodovar has emerged as Spain’s most important director since Luis Bunuel.
For “Volver,” his 16th feature film, Almodovar returned to his birthplace, La Mancha, to tell a story of ghosts, generational abuse and the resilient women of his youth (embodied by Penelope Cruz’s Raimunda, a resourceful mom with a maternal force rivaling silver-screen legend Anna Magnani). “They were housewives,” says Almodovar, “very beautiful, very strong.”
GENESIS: “Three or four years ago, I looked back at my childhood with different eyes, and I was able to reconcile with my childhood, that sort of hostile place where to be different is awful. I can see now that it was in that place that I started becoming the person who I would later become. And I was around women all the time — my mother and the rest of the neighborhood — and the movie just became a kind of tribute to all of them.”
VISION: “I think my movies are so colorful as a revenge against the place where I was born. … But in this movie, I wanted to move my palette closer to reality with the real colors of La Mancha. And also because the movie is very emotional, it has the dark sides of these women.”
MAGIC: “Penelope has this kind of strength. It’s not obvious at first sight, but she can be a force of nature. At the same time, she can be extremely vulnerable. Both together were fantastic for the character. And she did it so well when we were shooting — to pass from strong to weak — in one second, that I did it in the same shot to show that it was really her, because it’s so quick that it’s amazing. When I was watching it, I was amazed.”
NEXT: “I’m writing three now, and I suppose that one is more developed than the others. And one story is very different, and it will be less commercial, because the story is very tough. But it is about a couple. It will be in the female universe, but more about the relationship between men and women.”