All About My Mother
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
“We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, although that is an important part of it, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.” --Roger Ebert
I always respected the work of Roger Ebert, critic for the Chicago Sun Times and the shorter, dumpier half of Siskel & Ebert, as much as I have any film critic. I didn’t always agree with what he wrote outside of his reviews, but I always found him to be a great mixture of the scholar and the regular guy. So after seeing All About My Mother, a movie that for me made no sense as an art film or as a story, hoping to get some insight, I checked out his review. Ebert gave the film three and a half stars (out of four). All I can say is, you can’t be right every time.
Ebert said of this movie, “You don't know where to position yourself while you're watching a film like All About My Mother, and that's part of the appeal: Do you take it seriously, like the characters do, or do you notice the bright colors and flashy art decoration, the cheerful homages to Tennessee Williams and All About Eve (1950) and see it as a parody?” And I say, well NO, not knowing if it is a heartfelt drama or a screwball satire means the director doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.
The Title: Todo sobre mi madre. This is a play on the Bette Davis film, All About Eve. That’s a movie that is completely different than the movies I usually watch, yet it is a dang good one.
Agenda Danger: This film was released in 1999, and things have dramatically changed culturally since then. This film features an actor who plays a woman who was (or still is?) a man, and an actress who plays a woman who was a man. Not to mention a to-be nun who was impregnated by a woman who used to be a man. I’m not sure what the filmmaker is saying here, but he sure was ahead of the curve. You see, Millennials, in Olden Times this kind of stuff was usually strictly of the comedic variety: Milton Berle, Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, Bosom Buddies, and Bug Bunny as Brunhilde were what most Americans thought of in terms of what was called “cross-dressing.” Nowadays, everyone is very serious about the topic and such jokes cannot be made without peril. As far as I could tell (see Ebert’s quote above), All About My Mother’s cross-dressing is not done for laughs. But I couldn’t be sure of that.
Best Picture that year: American Beauty.