reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

Women are saints, men are shits. While this conclusion may paint the theme of Almovodar's moving and powerful homage to women, with too broad a brush, it isn't far off. To go into any details would spoil the surprises so go and enjoy them. But if you're a heterosexual male don't expect to leave the theater with your head held high.

Penelope Cruz shows once again that she is a great actress when allowed to work in her native language. She is also a total bombshell.

She, her daughter and sister struggle with working class existence in Madrid and also to keep in contact with relatives and friends back in the family village. This film has been lauded by pretty much every critic in the world, and deservedly so. It shows us the intimate world of women; from the beauty parlor to trash talk TV. And it's a celebration not a put-down. Solidarity, jealousy, miss-communication, forgiveness, it's all the stuff of life.

Almovodar has made a career of showing us the intimate world of women, and this is quite probably his quixotic ultimate to date. It is by far the best film I've seen all year. The gentle way he uses humor to illuminate tragedy and the consequences of tragedy is, pardon the expression, masterful.

I'm waiting for "Pan's Labyrinth" to see if the reviews are correct and if that film is even better. What is it about Spanish writers, directors, crews and casts that are now doing what the French, Germans and Italians were doing in the sixties and seventies? Do we need to start talking about the "Spanish Renaissance"?

"Volver" started playing at the Rialto in Santa Rosa [California] last Friday.

Be forewarned, the owners have raised the matinee and "Cheap Seats Tuesday" price to $7.00 from $6.75. I hadn't been there for over a month so I don't know if they gave any warning of the price rise, but I didn't see any announcement in the Press Democrat or the Bohemian. Twenty-five cents may not seem like much to them, but it's one more niggling irritation in the stress of life today. Especially if you're a poor man like me! Could a little advance notice have been that hard? Now I guess all the mainstream commercial theaters will raise their matinee price to $7.00!

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