By EW Staff
November 16, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
Teresa Isasi

After years of madcap odes to pansexual encounters and women in distress, Almodóvar himself seems on the verge — of something new. His latest film, ”All About My Mother,” which earned him the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes film festival, displays the sort of emotional maturity and cinematic sophistication which has Hollywood wagging about Oscar. ”As I have approached my 40th year — and in fact generously passed it,” he jokes in Spanish, ”I’ve learned more about myself and have tried to expand my world.”

In some respects, the movie is vintage Almodóvar; it’s photographed in the director’s trademark palette of primary colors, and the usual eccentrics are running amok. But ”Mother” (which cost just $4 million to make) is also deeply moving: Manuela (Cecilia Roth) — an amateur actress-turned-nurse who teaches seminars on how to gently solicit organ donations from the grieving families of terminal patients — winds up on the other side of the equation when her own son (Eloy Azorin) is killed on his 17th birthday. Determined to fulfill the boy’s final wish to know more about his father, she travels to Barcelona, hooking up with a menagerie of suffering souls to mother along the way.

The skillful weave of theatricality and sentiment — not to mention the not-so-subtle references to American classics like ”All About Eve” and ”A Streetcar Named Desire” — has critics universally proclaiming ”Mother” Almodóvar’s creative zenith. ”Sometimes,” he says, ”I think all the other movies I’ve made helped me make this one.” BUZZ FACTOR: 6

See the movie trailer for ”All About My Mother.”

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