Caught the new Pedro Almodóvar movie this last weekend. Enjoyed it. Some people know how to photograph Penelope Cruz right, and Pedro is one of them.
What struck me in watching Volver (loose translation: To Return) is that Almodóvar may be the most gentle and is probably the best Hitchcock acolyte working today. M. Night Shamyalan has gotten a lot of attention for his cameos and cinematic quoting of the old master, but Almodóvar does a much better job in one very important area: Music.
The only time Shyamalan got the music right was in the opening credits of Signs, where the text combined with a Bernard Herrmann-styled theme to create suspense where there previously was none (I think it was Signs, but maybe it was Unbreakable). Almodóvar gets the Hitchcockian music right throughout Volver. When Cruz finds the dead body and decides not to go to the authorities, the music kicks in to both root her on and warn us that she’s doing something wrong and may get caught at any moment. And then the doorbell rings. She answers the door with blood on her neck (not her own). She blames the blood on “female trouble,” which pulls the movie back into Almodóvar’s other notable genre, which is the female-oriented Sirkian melodrama (for lack of a better term).
That brings up my one criticism of the film. Those two genres don’t really fit together very well here. It’s great to see his women bonding and dealing with the returning mother (one "return"). It is also fun to see how the crime (and the history of the crimes that preceded the crime) also come back (the other "returns"). But they are very different movies. They’re both good movies, however, so I’ll cut him some slack.