It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Pedro Almodovar's films are a struggle between real and fake heartbreak--between tragedy and soap opera. They're usually funny, too, which increases the tension. You don't know where to position yourself while you're watching a film like "All About My Mother," and that's part of the appeal: Do you take it seriously, like the characters do, or do you notice the bright colors and flashy art decoration, the cheerful homages to Tennessee Williams and "All About Eve" (1950) and see it as a parody? Even Almodovar's camera sometimes doesn't know where to stand: When the heroine's son writes in his journal, the camera looks at his pen from the point of view of the paper.
"All About My Mother" is one of the best films of the Spanish director, whose films present a Tennessee Williams sensibility in the visual style of a 1950s Universal-International tearjerker. Rock Hudson and Dorothy Malone never seem very far offscreen. Bette Davis isn't offscreen at all: Almodovar's heroines seem to be playing her. Self-parody is part of Almodovar's approach, but "All About My Mother" is also sincere and heartfelt; though two of its characters are transvestite hookers, one is a pregnant nun and two more are battling lesbians, this is a film that paradoxically expresses family values.
The movie opens in Madrid with a medical worker named Manuela (Cecilia Roth) and her teenage son Esteban (Eloy Azorin). They've gone to see a performance of "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1993) and now wait across the street from the stage door so Esteban can get an autograph from the famous actress Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes). She jumps into a taxi (intercut with shots from "All About Eve" of Bette Davis eluding an autograph hound), and Esteban runs after her and is struck dead in the street. That sets up the story, as Manuela journeys to Barcelona to inform Esteban's father of the son's death.
There is irony as the film folds back on itself, because its opening scenes show Manuela, now a transplant coordinator but once an actress, performing in a video intended to promote organ transplants. In the film, grieving relatives are asked to allow the organs of their loved ones to be used; later Manuela plays the same scene for real, as she's asked to donate her own son's heart.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
Chaz Ebert highlights films with the potential to get us through the confusing political times of the Trump presidenc...
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
One of the most audacious American films from the 1960s is now available via the Criterion Collection.