Sunday, January 07, 2007

Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon

As part of the Supporting Actress Blogathon over at Stinkylulu, I’ve decided to give some props to a new actress I haven’t seen before, but am now incredibly impressed with.
Almodóvar has a way of introducing new performers to the world at large, the first to recognize their greatness, or at least bring them to a wider audience: Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Victoria Abril, Rossy di Palma, Chus Lampreave, Marisa Pardes (love, love), and the always wonderful Carmen Maura. Volver is no exception. Besides showing the world that yes, ladies and gentlemen, Penelope Cruz can act (and brilliantly), he has introduced me to another actress whose performance makes me want to run out and Netflix everything she has done, as I did with Marisa Paredes after All About my Mother and Flower of My Secret. This time, it’s

Blanca Portillo as Agustin in Volver. I will spare you the plot summary, but this careworn, caring creature is for me one of the greatest accomplishments of the film. As he did for a moment in Flower of My Secret, Almodovar visits a small windy town outside of Madrid. What he finds there is the complex, hysterical, stubborn Agustin, who roots the film to reality, even while believing all the while in ghosts.

Portillo’s greatest achievement is to give nobility and sweetness to a character that could have been a neurotic rube. Worrying and wearing black, cherishing the memory of her mother "the Hippy" while smoking pot, and delivering gunfire kisses all around, Portillo manages to make Agustin the pull that brings everyone back to the village. The character represents superstition and small mindedness on one hand, but openness of heart and great loyalty on the other. When Agustin is brought on a reality show to air some dirty laundry in exchange for a trip to Houston for treatment of her cancer, what could have been a silly moment of laughter at the ridiculousness of the character and the situation becomes a harrowing moment of decision and a condemnation of all those would trade Agustin’s pain for their entertainment. Always meaning well, but sometimes desperate, Agustin stays with us throughout the film as a voice of conscience, as well as a reminder of compassion, goodness, and self-sacrifice. One of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while, and a performer I am thrilled to have been introduced to. She would make me want to visit a windy, barren Spanish village. Let’s hear it for Blanco Portillo.


Kamikaze Camel said...

Yeah, she was prety swell.

criticlasm said...

And there were so many great women in this movie. His casting is always brilliant.

RC said...

i have yet to see this movie but look forward to getting a chance to see it...

i appreciate your perception to identify an actress deserving of credit whom others have certainly overlooked.

--RC of

criticlasm said...

Thanks--R.C.--all credit goes to Stinkylulu. Glad you're enjoying it.

Marius said...

I totally agree; Blanca Portillo did a phenomenal job in Volver. I had issues with the film, but her performance was quite memorable. I think, with a little makeup, she probably could have played the part of Irene, Raimunda’s mother, more effectively than Maura. Although I love Maura, I think she was miscast in this film, but I guess that’s another story. Anyway, good call.

Also, Victoria Abril is a huge star in Europe and Latin America, mostly without Almodovar’s help. I guess one could say that Almodovar introduced her to the English speaking world. I think that would be more accurate.

Great post.