Friday, February 29, 2008

Eve Unveiled

TCM is playing the 1950 Bette Davis classic All About Eve at 5:30 PM ET on March 1. I could certainly post about what is widely considered one of the classics of American cinema, but All About Eve reminded me of another movie, and so I shall go off on a different tack with this post.

Pedro Almodóvar's 1999 movie All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre in Spanish) takes its name from All About Eve: at the beginning of the movie, transplant nurse and single mother Manuela (Cecilia Roth) and her son Esteban (Eloy Azarín) are watching the movie in their Madrid apartment, and Esteban comments that the Spanish translation has erroneously been titled "Eve Unveiled". It's Esteban's birthday, and he'd like to learn about his father, but instead, he and his mother go to the theater to see a production of A Streetcar Named Desire starring his favorite actress, Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes). Unfortunately, Esteban is run down by a car after the play while trying to get Huma Rojo's autograph, sending his mother back to Barcelona, for a trip into her past and a search for Esteban's father....

In Barcelona, Manuela meets an odd assortment of people: Huma Rojo is there with her production of Streetcar, together with her lesbian lover, and her lover's drug habit. Manuela also meets the young nun Hermana Rosa (Penélope Cruz), who is ministering to Barcelona's seedier side, the prostitutes, transsexuals, and drug addicts. It turns out that Rosa has a seedier side to herself, as she's thoroughly broken the vow of chastity, getting pregnant from one of the people she's supposed to be ministering to -- and getting AIDS from him as well. Rosa can't go home, so she stays with Manuela, who takes care of her during her pregnancy. Eventually, Manuela does find Esteban's father, although it would be giving away too much of the plot to point out how and when this happens.

This movie is clearly not for the young: it deals with almost every adult topic imaginable, from drugs to every form of sexuality imaginable to domestic violence to thoroughly broken families to death and beyond. But Almodóvar handles the material with dignity and a touch of humor, making for one of the outstanding movies of recent years. I strongly recommend All About My Mother, and am happy to say that it is available on DVD.

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