Leo (Marisa Paredes, Huma in All About My Mother) is a 50-ish woman with major marital problems. Her husband Paco (Imanol Arias) is always off on distant NATO missions and when he does return one time, it’s just for an hour to shower, fight with Leo, and announce that he’s leaving her for good. He’s also having an affair with Leo’s best friend, psychologist Betty (Carmen Elias). Leo’s mother fights constantly with Leo’s sister Rosa (Rossy de Palma, the one with the nose). What’s more, Leo is secretly the hugely popular romance novelist Amanda Gris, and after interviewing for a newspaper column, the editor Angel (Juan Echanove) finds out. Fortunately, he and Leo are perfect for each other, and he even ghost-ghost-writes a couple Amanda Gris novels while Leo’s getting back on her feet by taking care of her mother in their old village. Oh also Leo’s maid Blanca stages a great flamenco show funded by a script that her son Antonio stole from Leo’s trashcan. Very much an adult movie, with the usual motherhood themes and suicide attempts. Not as wild and fun as the others… pretty grounded, for Almodovar.

Opens the same way as All About My Mother, with Betty taping a play-acted discussion at the hospital regarding organ donation after a patient has died. Nobody dies in this one, though.

Manuela (completely excellent Cecilia Roth) takes her son Esteban (Eloy Azarin) to see A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) as Blanche, and Nina (Candela Pena) as Stella. Esteban wants Huma’s autograph, chases her taxi in the rain, and is fatally struck by another car. Manuela travels from Madrid to Barcelona to tell Esteban’s father Lola (Toni Canto), a transsexual, that his son has died, and that he had a son in the first place.

In Barcelona she hooks up with Lola’s friend Agrado (Antonia San Juan), who got ripped off by Lola a few months prior. Agrado leads her to the nun Sister Maria Rosa Sanz (Penelope Cruz) to find Lola, not knowing that Sister Maria is pregnant with Lola’s son, a fact she tries to hide from her parents. The “Streetcar” theater company has also moved to Barcelona and Manuela tracks them down, sorta accidentally becoming Huma’s personal assitant (a job later handed over to Agrado), which mostly consists of tracking down Nina after she disappears to find/take drugs.

Sister Maria dies in childbirth, naming her son Esteban. Manuela becomes Esteban’s mother, because Maria’s mom has her hands full watching Maria’s alzheimers-suffering dad.

Awesome, with moving performances throughout… sad and happy and wonderful. Technically strong, well edited and written, but the entire focus is on the performances, the actresses. Worth seeing again and again. Beat a buncha movies I’ve never heard of for best foreign oscar in 2000. Apparently it was loosely based on The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau.

Both Almodovar movies seen today feature incredible coincidences happening while women search for the fathers of their children. Both take place in large cities (Madrid and Barcelona) but treat the cities like familiar towns, where you can always run into someone you know.

Almodovar’s closing dedication: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”

Pepa’s (Carmen Maura) lover Ivan (an older Fernando Guillen) is leaving her. She just found out she’s pregnant and tries unsuccessfully to contact him for two days to tell him so. She tries contacting Ivan’s former lover Lucia (Julieta Serrano) to find Ivan, but no luck. Lucia and Pepa are each convinced that Ivan is about to go on a trip with the other, but he’s off to Stockholm with a third woman, a feminist lawyer named Paulina Morales (Kiti Manver) whom Lucia and Pepa have each tried to hire.

Lucia has a son by Ivan named Carlos (Antonio Banderas with poofy hair) who shows up coincidentally to rent Pepa’s apartment with his fiancee Marisa (big-nosed Rossy de Palma). But not before Pepa’s suicidally upset friend Candela (cute, short-haired Maria Barranco) comes along to hide out after she was forced to harbor Shiite terrorists who planned to blow up tonight’s flight to Stockholm (but are now safely in police custody). Also involved are a mambo cabbie (dyed-blonde Guillermo Montesinos), a couple policemen, neighbor Ana (Ana Leza) with a motorcyclist boyfriend, and an uncredited speaking part for Javier Bardem as the messenger at the lawyer’s office who convinces her receptionist to let Pepa in for a few minutes.

In between, the bed is set on fire, the phone and answering machine both get tossed through a window, drugged gazpacho knocks everyone out, Banderas gets frisky with Candela, and Lucia gets crazy and hijacks a motorcycle.

That should be sufficient to remember plot. Movie is colorful and fun and moving and hilarious… completely awesome. Worth seeing again. A Danish movie called Pelle the Conqueror beat this and Salaam Bombay out for best foreign oscar in 1989.