Thursday, October 05, 2006

One of the bad things about living in a minor European capital is that movies usually arrive months after they open in the States. Like The Squid and the Whale, which came out more than half a year after it was released in the U.S. Of course, it has been playing here for four months and we didn't get around to seeing it until last week. The reward for waiting so long was that we ended up being the only people in the theater, so we stretched out, bought extra candy and felt free to chatter throughout the movie, which improves the viewing experience, believe me. And it was a good movie, but would have been a great one if Jeff Daniels had given us a small bone of sympathy, something to make us feel even just a fleeting moment's empathy and sorrow for his character. Still, Jesse Eisenberg playing his teen-aged son was superb.

But not all is bad when it comes to movies in Stockholm. For one thing, when you buy your tickets you get assigned seats. But the biggest advantage Stockholm has over New York when it comes to movies is that we get Almodóvar first. From the first seconds of any of his movies - the overwrought music and the jarring titles - I'm hooked like I am with no other director. I want to take the next flight to Madrid. I want to eat peppers chopped by Penelope Cruz, I want to hold hands with Rossy De Palma, I want to lick Fele Martinez' neck.

Volver didn't disappoint. The usual vivid colors, strong women and extreme situations that somehow seem normal, horrible deeds that are humanized, all reminiscent of 1950s melodrama but with an underlying toughness coupled to tenderness that can be found in no other movies. And shots like the overhead view of a mourning niece being noisily kissed by a swarm of village women with fans, everyone in black. And the glorious Carmen Maura was back again, even though she once said she would never work with Almodóvar again.

Still, as A. the TV producer said, it wasn't as complex or compelling as his previous film. "I don't want to go out and see it again right away like I did with Bad Education," she said.

I feel ungrateful complaining though, as if it weren't brilliant anyway.

The Swedish verb for the day is att återvända which is how they've translated the title of the film into Swedish. It means to return.

- by Francis S.

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