Todo sobre mi madre  (1999) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

Director Almodóvar started with a character, a woman who could act, and did so in her life, but was not an actress. He then layered in an interest in the people who convince the bereaved to sign an organ donor card. From these concepts, the idea for the film was born.

Cecilia Roth works in a hospital, teaching other workers how to counsel next of kin, and get them to donate organs. Ironically, her son is run over and killed trying to get an actresses autograph, and Roth is approached to donate his organs. Roth moves to Barcelona, both to confront the actress whose rudeness caused her son's death, and also to look for his transsexual father. Roth had once been a prostitute in Barcelona, and left when she found she was pregnant. Once back in Barcelona, she goes to the red-light district to begin looking for her father's son, and runs into an old friend and colleague, Antonia San Juan, who is being brutalized by a customer. Roth saves her, and the two renew their friendship. Roth finally confronts the actress, and ends up working for her for a brief time, until she stands in for the actress's girlfriend, and is then run off by the girlfriend. Roth is also introduced to a young nun played by Penélope Cruz, who works with streetwalkers, is due to leave for San Salvador to replace some murdered nuns, and has a father with advanced Alzheimer's. The nun is also three months pregnant, and has AIDS. The film continues in this vein, and is full of actresses, hookers, transvestites, trans-genders, and people with AIDS.

I never did decide if this was a comedy or a drama, and if it was character or plot driven. That might be one of its strengths. It definitely uses a a unique approach, the unexpected, and a basic honesty in the plot. As regular readers well know, I am not afraid to differ with the critics, but, in this case, I agree completely. I think most people will find something to enjoy in this film. This is considered one of his better films, has wide crossover appeal, and is a B+.

Scoop's comments:

It is a terrific movie, and the photography must place it in the all-time top fifty in that category, but it is clearly not a B+ by our sysrtem. It is one of those strange artistic films about quirky offbeat characters, and it is in Spanish. The correct score for English speakers is C+, which essentially means not many of you will like it, but the people who like it will love it. If you speak Spanish with native fluency, then you might consider it a B or B+ or even an A if you are a woman, because women rate it much higher than men.

To give you an idea of whether you are one of those who will love it, here is the composition of the world of Pedro Almodóvar:

  • Transvestites: 14%
  • Transsexuals: 13%
  • Pregnant nuns: 11%
  • Children of nuns who, up until recently, were pregnant: 9%
  • Regular homosexuals: 5%
  • Actors and actresses and writers who create stories about the gender-troubled characters: 7%
  • Antonio Banderas: 1%
  • Children whose father has better tits than their mother: 40%

Now before you rent an Almodóvar film, get your mind adjusted to that world, and don't go kvetching when it appears before you, because you will know what to expect.

I get the point of the film - that the external appearances of these offbeat characters, and their atypical situations don't change the fact that they are essentially the same people we are, except that they have to struggle harder to get there, and far harder still to be accepted once they arrive. That produces some good moments of intense drama, and Almodóvar balances the intense drama with a truly offbeat and dark sense of humor, which helps to make the stories watchable. I understand the stories, and they're OK, but I just don't "feel" them at a level that makes me want to praise this film as overwhelming genius.

Some things I enjoyed most about this film: 

  • Excellent performances from the leads.
  • Technically solid, lustrous photography. 
  • Beautiful choice of locales, mainly the city of Barcelona, predominantly in architecture created by or influenced by Antonio Gaudi.


There is very brief breast exposure from Antonia San Juan during the sexual attack.
If you are not familiar with Senor Gaudi, he is a turn of the century architect who rejected traditional architectual concepts in the same way that modern painters rejected traditionalism. He rejected not only the established concepts of beauty, and also the familiar geometry of building design. This is inherently bold and daring for an architect. Much more risky than for a painter, for example. I mean, if you're a painter and you reject classical allegories and traditional human figures, it's not like your painting is going to collapse on somebody's grandmother or suck small pets down the toilet. The worst that can happen is that people don't like it and/or don't understand it, and you will feel like you wasted a couple months and a couple hundred dollars worth of paint. But when you're an architect and you reject traditional forms, there's always the outside chance that your whole damned building will fall down on top of the Pope, or that nobody will rent your apartments and you will lose the years you invested in creating it. Worse still, the guys who invested in the apartment building will lose every cent, and may be named Vito, and may retain some of their colleagues to send you to a resort where you will be encouraged to take swimming lessons with Luca Brasi.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • "An Intimate Conversation with Pedro Almodóvar"

  • Isolated Music Score

  • Making of

  • Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic (2.35) formats

  • excellent transfer

So you have to give Gaudi a big tip of the hat for creating designs which are not only unique and daring, but functional as well. Regular people actually live in buildings that he designed, and the entire modern city bears a distinct flavor that he created. And if you can't afford a ticket to Barcelona, this movie is an inexpensive alternative.

This page will give you a quick look at some of Gaudi's creations. It isn't comprehensive, but you'll get the idea.  

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Apollo 85/100

  • won the Oscar for best foreign language film, and most of the Goyas

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 8.1/10 (top 200 of all time), Apollo users 82/100
  • with their dollars: it grossed about eight million dollars in the USA and another million in the UK


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ (Scoop) to B+ (Tuna). We both like it, but Scoop cautions that not many will find it their cup of tea.

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