After a string of Hollywood flops, Penélope Cruz reunited with Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodóvar for Volver. Like their 1999 film All About My Mother, this is an oestrogen-fuelled story boasting a "mix of tears and laughter". It was a glittering comeback for Cruz who, after wowing the crowds at Cannes, earned BAFTA and Oscar nods for playing a hassled housewife visited by the ghost of her mother.
Behind the scenes insights are spread across two discs, including an engaging commentary by Almodóvar and Cruz. That's despite a sombre introduction to the film; Almodóvar saying, "It's about the female universe and its relationship with death..." However, the mood lightens pretty quickly with in-depth discussion about the 'fake bottom' that Cruz had to wear for the role (because Almodóvar insists, "mothers must have curves"). When it came to getting a grip on a complex character, Cruz admits that, "The fake bottom came in very handy..."
In an interview on disc two, Cruz reveals the trust she places in Almodóvar - someone she says she "dreamed of working with" since she was a little girl. Her co-star Carmen Maura (also an Almodóvar regular) reflects on his working methods while the man himself explains that this film is about "the brighter side of my childhood". Bad Education was apparently "about the darker side of his childhood", although a 40 minute profile insists it "was not autobiographical." Cameras follow him around the set of that film and later snatch a look behind-the-scenes at Volver. "Give it all you've got, Penélope!" the helmer exclaims before Cruz proceeds to deliver one of the most heart-rending scenes of the film. (An eight-minute musical montage showcases more backstage footage.)
In The Cannes
Almodóvar chairs a 40 minute Conversation with the cast, which dissects the plot and its themes. He insists, "I don't believe in ghosts." But it's an open question for Cruz who says that the film puts across "a feeling that gives sense to this life, of something beyond." There's also talk about the bold mix of comedy and drama although apparently Maura "didn't know" it was supposed to be funny... That, Almodóvar explains, is because the laughs spring naturally from honestly drawn characters. His confidence here is a far cry from the nerves he suffers during press rounds at The Cannes Film Festival (revealed in another featurette). "He needs coffee fast!" barks an assistant, but of course the coffee just makes him worse. Conversely, Cruz is the model of composure, swishing around the red carpets and charming the grumpy old reporters.
With plenty of behind-the-scenes access and girly chat, this DVD should score well with female moviegoers who are otherwise fed up of mediocre Hollywood 'chick flicks'. Like a Spanish mum's backside, the package is generous and nicely rounded.
Volver DVD is released on Monday, 12th February 2007.