Monday, August 18, 2008

All About My Mother (1999)

Pedro Almodóvar's Academy Award Winning Todo Sobre Mi Madre is all around a great film. The film follows Cecilia Roth as mother who loses her only child and moves to Barcelona where she befriends an aging actress played by Marisa Paredes and a young nun played by Penélope Cruz. This film pays homage to Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire as well as the classic film All About Eve with Roth playing a combination of Eve Harrington and Stella Kowalski, yet entirely different.

All About My Mother, Cecilia Roth
I have often wondered if foreign language films are as good as I believe them to be. When I do not understand the language, am I less critical of the acting quality simply because I cannot accurately judge how convincingly the lines are delivered? I cannot really answer this question, but I do know that All About My Mother has an interesting storyline that seems to work well. The fact that it draws parallels to classic works of stage and screen while still being a unique story of its own is quite captivating.

All About My Mother is also unique in that it shows many of the ways in which American views of gender and sexuality are limited when compared to a global scale. Roth's character's best friend and her ex-husband are both male to female transsexuals. Sex work is also discussed rather frankly throughout. And homosexuality (or at least bisexuality) is seen as an unremarkable and viable option.

All About My Mother, Marisa Paredes, Cecilia Roth
This film manages a good balance of drama and comedy. In some scenes one truly feels sorry for a character one later feels quite happy to see. For example in one scene we feel quite bad for Agrado who has been beaten by a john. Yet later when she discusses here multiple plastic surgeries to become an authentic woman we can't help but laugh.

My first Almodóvar experience is still my favorite, but this film opened the door to many brilliant films by the prolific director.

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