Volver (Magna Pacific) (2006)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Pedro Almodóvar|
Magna Home Entertainment
Antonio de la Torre
María Isabel Díaz
Carlos García Cambero
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
If there is one thing that Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodovar understands, or at least strives to understand, is the world of women - their earthiness, differences and deep mysteries. Volver is the latest in a loose series of Almodovar films celebrating Spanish womanhood. It was a huge hit internationally and earned many times its budget back at the box office. As well, star Penelope Cruz gained a Best Actress Oscar nomination, losing out to Helen Mirren for The Queen.
Like so many of Almodovar's works, Volver is a complex melodrama with elements of comedy. The title itself means "return" or "coming back" and the film in fact marks a number of returns. Firstly, Almodovar came back to his birthplace La Mancha for filming. Secondly, he works again with his early muse Carmen Maura for the first time in 17 years. Thirdly, his more recent star Penelope Cruz finds her way back from the bright lights of Hollywood into the fold.
The plot of Volver takes some time to coalesce and viewers may at first be confused at the jumble of characters and their complex backstories thrown on the screen. As the film begins we see a group of women hard at work in a cemetery, cleaning the tombstones of the dear departed. It is a beginning which sets up death and remembrance as the pivotal theme of the work. Sisters Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (Lola Dueñas) are still feeling the recent loss of their mother and father, killed in a tragic house fire. Not only are their parents dead but Aunt Paula is on her way out - lame, mostly blind and , what is worse, she claims to be tended by her dead sister!
Raimunda has a daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), a teenager who has attracted the eye of her father, Paco. One night she is set upon by Paco who wants to have his wicked way with her - claiming that he is not her real father by way of justification. Paula runs him through with a kitchen knife and Raimunda must make the decision of whether to cover up the evidence and tell everyone that the husband has left her, or confess to the police. Naturally she chooses the deceptive option and Paco gets stuffed into the freezer of a disused restaurant at the bottom of their street. The restaurant owner has given Raimunda the keys to look after the place but, after a chance meeting with a member of a film crew shooting in the area, Raimunda decides to open the restaurant for business.
Meanwhile, Aunt Paula has died and her neighbour Agustina (Blanca Portillo) can't get over the feeling that Paula was visited by the ghost of Raimunda's mother. She is not far wrong. After a visit to Paula's funeral the mother Irene (Carmen Maura) turns up seemingly very much alive in the boot of Sole's car!
Agustina, fighting a battle with cancer, is determined to get to the bottom of the mysteries surrounding the death of the husband and wife and the disappearance of her own mother. Raimondo, meanwhile, is trying to make sense of her mothers return and the dark secrets of her own past.
It is no wonder that six actresses in the cast of Volver were awarded a Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival. For even though Penelope Cruz plays the lead in this film she is very much part of the ensemble. Hers is a performance of depth and ferocity, driven by a desire to ensure that her daughter is not trapped in the same manner as herself. Her Raimunda is sexy and difficult, earthy yet goddess-like. Duenas is also brilliant - many will remember her from The Sea Inside and it is good to see Almodovar working again with Carmen Maura. The men in the film are close to non-existent and Almodovar doesn't try to turn the film into a romance - instead he concentrates on these strong women and their steps towards truth and reconciliation.
This is a comedy with some bite and a melodrama of depth.
Volver is the second recent Magna Pacific release I have reviewed that has been altered from its original cinematic aspect ratio for DVD. release.
Like the other, Volver started life in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It has ended up at approximately 1.85:1 in a 16x9 enhanced transfer. There is no good reason why it should have been altered. The film is available in its original state in both Region 1 and Region 2.
Want to see what you are missing? I tried to think of something witty to say about the tomato boxes below but you'll have to come up with your own funny caption.
It is not possible to do a scene by scene comparison of the film. I didn't notice any scenes that were uncomfortably framed and the film is enjoyable in this state. Enthusiasts will no doubt want the real deal and will purchase the film overseas.
As far as the transfer quality itself there is nothing really to complain about. The print is bright and clear and free of artefacts. The level of grain is minimal and there are no compression problems on this dual layer disc.
The colours are stable and flesh tones are accurate. Make no mistake, this is not cutting edge cinema, but no fan of the film would be upset at the way it looks on the small screen.
There are English subtitles for this Spanish language film.
Volver comes to DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448Kb/s. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s.
In fact the surround sound is not really needed. Apart from giving a more expansive sound to the music I can't recall any surround specific effects and the sub-woofer might as well have been turned off. This is not a criticism rather a reflection of the fact that dialogue is at the heart of this film. The dialogue is clear and easy to discern (and understand if you speak Spanish) and there appears to be good lip sync, even when Penelope Cruz is miming the singing of a song.
Almodovar regular Alberto Iglesias chimes in with a score that manages to chart the dramatic shifts in tone of the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
The theatrical trailer jumbles up the events in the film and must have been confusing to see in the cinema.
The interview segments are fairly brief - Almodovar (8.26), Cruz (3.58) and Maura (5.57). The director talks about his own upbringing and the women in his life. He see the film as positive in nature despite the melodramatic overtones. He speaks Spanish but occasionally breaks into unsubtitled English. Cruz mainly speaks English and describes the pleasures of working with Almodovar. She says that she now lives in Spain. Injudicious editing cuts her off as she says "my favourite director is..." - I assume she said Pedro!
Maura talks about the long time between drinks for her work with the director.
These interviews are interesting but brief.
As I said above Volver has been released in Regions 1 and 2. Both feature a commentary by Almodovar and Cruz and both have a Making of featurette. There is also a Taking the film to Cannes featurette (16:56) and a Table discussion with Almodóvar and cast (37:58). The only shared feature is the trailer and the interviews.
The Region 2 release comes with 2 DVD's and is also blessed with a long segment from Spanish TV.
I can't comment on the value of these items but any true fan of Almodovar will want to have them.
Image comparisons suggest that the Region 2 version is slightly sharper.
Volver is the latest in a long line of internationally successful films by Pedro Almodovar. Even the director admits that this film is easier to digest than Bad Education as it concentrates on the best in people (within a framework of death and infidelity!) rather than the worst.
The cropping of the transfer is unacceptable but whether it is unforgivable depends on the viewer. Otherwise the transfer is pretty good.
The extras are not particularly long or detailed but are fun nevertheless.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|