Monday, May 9, 2011

All about my mother (Todo sobre mi madre)

I had heard so much about, yet I waited a very long time to see it. Probably because I do not so much like movies where I cannot understand the language. Well, I admit I was wrong. All about my mother (1999), by Pedro Almodóvar, is a nice little movie to watch.
Manuela (Cecilia Roth) is a nurse and lives with her son Esteban in Madrid. When he dies after a car accident, she sets off for Barcelona to tell Esteban’s father, a transvestite named Lola. There she reconnects with former friends and also meets new people.
Essentially it conveys a mesage about love, forgiveness and diversity. All characters are entertaining, and Agrado (Antonia SanJuan) is my favourite one. Manuela is very likeable too. I did not care so much for Penelope Cruz here, I felt her character lacked substance and depth. Manuela is the main character but the real spirit of the film, I found, was Agrado.
It's a pity that some important details are not explained : for instance, a nun is seduced by a transvestite but no-one seems to think it weird. But in spite of this fairly implausible plot this is a moving story, entertaining, not too long, and on occasions very funny.

Manuela: Do you have any alcohol?
Agrado: No, I drank it all last night.
Manuela: I meant for disinfecting.

Agrado: How could I own a real Chanel when there is so much poverty in the world?

I do not know if it is meant to be like this, but in this film all men are failures, either obsessed with sex or having lost their sense of purpose – their only chance for salvation is then to become a woman. But it does not show strong hate against men either.
Manuela: How could anyone act so macho with a pair of tits like that?
Almodovar shows us an odd bunch : Agrado is a transvestite prostitute, Rosa is a nun who is impregnated by another transvestite and discovers she has AIDS, Huma Rojo is a famous actress struggling with her co- star/girlfriend Nina, a coke-addict. All these are individuals that could easily be caricatures but here are fully developed characters whom we learn to like. In the end, their issues are as real as anyone else’s.
The numerous references to A Streetcar Named Desire  were smart and added to the themes of the story. Having seen this film recently, I liked that.
So what can I conclude from all this ? Maybe that a man is not important in a woman’s life, what really matters is what she can do, create and share. Who knows. And after all, maybe there’s no message at all and it is just meant to be entertaining. Having never been to Spain, I know I am keen to go see Barcelona, now.

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