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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Family > Supernatural > Death > Volver (Blu-ray + DVD-Video)

Volver (Blu-ray + DVD-Video)


Picture: B+/B-     Sound: B+/B-     Extras: C+     Film: B-



I am no big fan of Pedro Almodóvar, but he is at least imaginative and consistent, so when I heard he had a new film that dealt with the dead called Volver, I was curious.  Penelope Cruz plays Raimunda, an able-bodied young woman living a good life with her family and hoping to maybe have a better future soon.  She is helping to raise her younger sister when their parents died five years ago.  However, the neighbors are very superstitious and keep claiming to see her mother alive roaming around.


At first, she figures it is old fuddy-duddy spooked-out talk, but then she starts to notice that something is wrong and maybe there is something at least somewhat accurate about the ghost sightings, then things get more interesting.  To say more would ruin what does work, but the film is a welcome departure for Almodóvar from his usual, though as far was womanhood issues are concerned, he does not stray far from them.


It is Cruz who is more impressive than expected.  Always likable and trying different things, there is just something amazing about how she and her role meld together that makes her such a pleasure to watch here.  Having been handed more than a few commercial roles because of how beautiful she is and the camera likes her (along with much of the audience), she plays down her beauty and star status, then turns around and delivers a three-dimensional performance that is deceptively simple, but a personal breakthrough for her in her acting.  No wonder Almodóvar wants to work with hew again.


Now the supernatural aspects are sometimes handled in a Hitchcockian manner, ironic since nothing in his films were explicitly so, but the film ultimately is about a strata of femininity we rarely see in any films and though it may fall short in the murder and suspense sense, Volver ultimately delivers a tale about women and living that reaches deeply into the female sensibility with an eccentricity that only Almodóvar can deliver.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is another nice surprise, reminding us that Almodóvar and his Director of Photography José Luis Alcaine have one of the more color-literate palates in all of cinema and it is not just there to decorate.  Instead, the color is used to create a kind of distant warmth that the characters may or may not be able to connect with, but always follows them.  The anamorphically-enhanced DVD-Video is as good as it is going to be for that format, but the Blu-ray makes for some interesting new demo picture material in a way many may not expect.


The PCM Spanish 5.1 16/48 mix exclusive to the Blu-ray is better than the Dolby Digital Spanish 5.1 mix on both formats, including with a certain warmth the Dolby simply lacks.  Music is not bad and surrounds are in use in ambient and subtle ways that may not be apparent in a first-listen.  Extras are the same in both formats including two stills sections, a good feature length audio commentary by Cruz and Almodóvar, interviews segment and making of featurette.


Even if you don’t think you’d like Volver and are not fans of the parties involved, give it a chance and you’ll find some surprises.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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