A Director's Homecoming

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Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's new movie, Volver, didn't make our upcoming list of the 10 movies that most inspired us to travel this year, but that doesn't mean we didn't love it. (We got to see an advance screening.) As with all of Almodóvar's films, Volver wasn't really about the scenery--and as with all his movies, it was a joy just to be in his world. (The movie being released in New York and L.A. on November 3, and it goes into wider release on November 22.)

We're not going to bore you with a full review or a plot synopsis, other than to say that it's about a family of women dealing in various ways with death, and that, if anything, the plot is the weak point. It's the characters that carry the movie, especially Penelope Cruz's Raimunda and Blanca Portillo's soulful Agustina.

If you've ever been to Spain, you'll recognize that Almodóvar's characters aren't the caricatures they often seem to be on first viewing. The Spanish people have a kooky streak a mile wide. So even though Volver doesn't leave you with a desire to go to the specific neighbrohood in Madrid where most of the film was shot, you'll most likely start thinking about booking a trip to Spain.

Some of the action in Volver occurs in the region of La Mancha, where Almodóvar was born, and where he lived until he was 8. "Undoubtedly this is my most Manchegan film," he wrote in the production notes, referring to "the language, the customs, the patios, the sobriety of the facades, the cobbled paving in the streets." Almodóvar was born in a village, Calzada de Calatrava, near Almagro, where the actual shooting took place. According to the director's assistant, Barbara Peiro, "It's a beautiful little town, and it has a pretty popular stage theatre festival every summer."

There's a bit of info about Almagro at ciudad-almagro.com, but unfortunately it's only in Spanish.

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