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Yes, this did make two arty foreign movies in a row for me. Just coincidence, I'll try not to make a habit of it. It's written and directed by acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, but it's nevertheless accessible even to a Philistine like me. It stars the impressively beautiful Penélope Cruz; she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role.

Ms. Cruz plays Raimunda, a woman with a pile of family, financial, and personal problems. Her mother and father are dead, burned to ashes in a nasty fire years back. Her sister runs an unlicensed beauty salon. She's married to a lazy drunk. She has a teenage daughter (with problems of her own). Her aunt is senile, and still thinks her sister (Raimunda's mom) is around, helping her out. A dope-smoking family friend is suffering a serious illness.

And then things get even more complicated.

Discussing things further would involve some serious spoilers, so I'll refrain. Despite being set in Spain, Raimunda's travails are very recognizable and she's easy to sympathize with. Despite some very serious not-funny-at-all themes, there's a considerable amount of humor.

Much of the movie takes place in the La Mancha region of Spain; at one point, a TV newscaster claims that the area is known for its high levels of insanity. And darned if they don't still have windmills: the characters are shown driving by a field of enormous modern wind turbines. There was probably some symbolism there, which (of course) escaped me, but at least I got the reference.

Last Modified 2012-10-08 1:03 PM EDT