Awards: Winner of European Film Award for “Volver” and of Goya kudos for “El caballero Don Quixote” (2003), “El pajaro de la felicidad” (1993), “Belle epoque” (1992) and “Mad Monkey” (1989).
Tools: A Panaflex Millennium camera with Primo lenses was used for “Volver’s” single-camera shoot. Alcaine employed Kodak 5218 for interiors and Vision2 5205 for exteriors, plus the fluorescent Osram lighting tubes he’s become famous for. (He was the first to utilize fluorescents as key lighting more than 20 years ago.)
Aesthetic: “Volver” marks the Tangiers-born cinematographer’s fourth collaboration with helmer Pedro Almodovar, but the earthy beauty of “Volver” is a change from the candy-colored “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and the Technicolor noir look of “Bad Education.” Almodovar says he didn’t give Alcaine many visual references, but “like the perfect artisan he is, he has been able to wade into the story of ‘Volver’ and reveal its images with the intensity and emotion of someone who is revealing an explosive and terrible secret.”
Visual references: “Volver” is Almodovar’s paean to Italian neorealism; fittingly, Penelope Cruz recalls such stars as Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren. Alcaine used two eight-tube fluorescents at close quarters to bring out Cruz’s features. Meanwhile, the bus-stop scene — shot through glass screens and making striking use of Almodovar’s trademark red — recalls Walter Ruttman’s silent classic “Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.”
Challenges: “Volver” reps Almodovar’s full-fledged return to his birthplace of La Mancha, where it was key to capture the east wind the region is famous for, as well as its “ardent darkness.” Alcaine recently told American Cinematographer: “That’s a very special light where at first you don’t see anything, but once your eyes become accustomed, you can appreciate all the details.”
What’s next: Alcaine has shot four films since wrapping “Volver” in October 2004, the most recent of which, “Teresa, el Corpo de Cristo,” stars Paz Vega as Saint Teresa.