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‘Volver,’ Pedro Almodovar

Original screenplay contender

DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Sony Pictures Classics/May 19 (Cannes), Nov. 3 (U.S.)

CATEGORY: Original

STORYLINE: The world of Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) and her family is turned upside down when long-dead mother Irene (Carmen Maura) returns to rake up old coals.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Almodovar calls it “a story about motherhood and mortality, about solidarity among women and their capability to survive the most extreme situations. It’s also an homage to La Mancha, the place I was born, and its culture of death (where it’s believed) the dead don’t die completely. A Spanish ‘bright’ story, happening in the same places and with the same characters where the ‘black’ Spain also lives.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My childhood was a very hostile place; I didn’t want to think about it. But as an adult, you can look back with other eyes. I discovered that I was living so fast that I wasn’t recording anything. Conscious of the passing of time, I was able to look back to those years and reconcile with my childhood.”

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: “At the very beginning, it was like a screwball comedy with sinister touches of black humor, until the character of the mother (Carmen Maura), who was supposedly dead, appeared pretending to be a ghost. In that moment, I found out the story I wanted to tell.”

CHOICE LINES: Pic explores the present’s responsibility to the past — and vice versa. Returned from the dead, the mother asserts, “People always leave things undone or done badly, and I am no exception. I don’t know if they can be fixed, but if they can, it’s up to me to fix them.”

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