Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

Cecilia Roth as Manuela in All About My Mother (1999) (IMDB)

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

All About My Mother
Pedro Almodóvar

Criterion

28 January 2020

Other

Repetition is so ingrained in our daily existence that we typically overlook it altogether. The clock hands (or digital display) revolve/flip in a predictable repetition; we rise in the mornings and execute the same routines again and again. Repetition is inherent to our very understanding of the world. We recognize that type of animal over there (say, a breed of canine we have never seen before) because in some cognitive manner it repeats characteristics we have seen in plenty of other dogs.

But there are other types of repetition that manage to strike us—those moments that seem to be uncanny, caught up in the strange synchronicity of happenstance. I think of someone from my childhood home far away, a person I haven't seen or contemplated in years, and he appears before me at a local shop. The thought is uncannily repeated in actuality. Repetition structures our lives, and yet in moments like these, they tear at the seams of that structure.

One way of understanding Pedro Almodóvar's Oscar-winning 13th feature-length film, All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre), is to follow through its many and varied repetitions. These repetitions operate on various levels of detail, various strata of the layered structure of the film. Some repetitions are nearly hidden—involving props in the background or specific color schemes. Certain moments are repetitions with significant differences of plot points in other films (in some cases those by Almodóvar himself and in some cases films by other directors). Other repetitions are structural. They reveal a fascinating understanding of time and our relationship to it that suffuses the film. Coming to grips with that understanding requires a bit of plot summary.

Film Strip by joseph_alban(Pixabay License / Pix

Manuela (Cecilia Roth), a nurse and single mother, lives in Madrid with her son Esteban (Eloy Azorin). During the day, she informs the transplant service of available organs. She also acts in short training videos that instruct doctors and hospital staff in dealing with the bereaved while seeking permission to harvest the organs of their loved ones. In the evenings, she watches classic films such as Mankiewicz's All About Eve with her son. To celebrate Esteban's birthday, Manuela takes him to a production of Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire, starring the aging diva Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes). In an attempt to get an autograph from Huma in the pouring rain, Esteban is struck and killed by a car. Manuela returns to the city she abandoned nearly 20 years ago, Barcelona, to inform Esteban's father -- who didn't even know of his son's existence -- of his passing.

In Barcelona, while searching an area frequented by prostitutes to find Esteban's father, Manuela encounters and rescues her former friend La Agrado (Antonia San Juan) from a savage attack. La Agrado is a transsexual sex worker who has large breast implants but retains her penis, which she later brags is large, effectual, and good for business. Agrado informs Manuela that Manuela's ex-husband, another transsexual named Lola (Toni Canto), has contracted HIV owing to his longstanding heroin addiction. Lola had been living with Agrado but had absconded with all of her valuables, leaving Agrado in desperate straits.

Agrado and Manuela seek employment by appealing to a nun, Sister Rosa (Penelope Cruz). Rosa informs them that she is soon departing for San Salvador; Agrado briefly considers joining her to escape Barcelona but demurs when she learns of its political turmoil. "A war is the last thing I need right now," she quips. Soon Rosa discovers she is pregnant with the child of Lola and has contracted HIV. Estranged from her own family, she turns to Manuela for care and a place to live.

Cecilia Roth as Manuela and Eloy Azorín as Esteban (Photo by Getty Images / Getty Images / IMDB)

Huma Rojo's production of A Streetcar Named Desire is now in Barcelona. Mariela sees a show, buying an empty seat beside her in honor of Esteban. She meets Rojo, helps her find her drug-addicted costar and lover Nina (Candela Peña), and soon becomes Rojo's personal assistant. When Nina fails to appear for a performance owing to her drug abuse, Manuela (who had performed the play in an amateur group two decades prior and identified closely with it) played the role of Stella alongside Rojo's Blanche. Nina, jealous and suspicious, attacks Mariela's motives (believing that she seeks to replace Nina), leading to Mariela's confession of her connection to Rojo through the death of her son. (Rojo remembers the mysterious young man pleading for an autograph in the rain but was unaware of his demise.)

Manuela no longer feels comfortable working for Rojo but remains close to her; Agrado becomes Rojo's assistant. When Rojo and Nina again fail to appear for a performance (this time owing to a violent fight), Agrado takes the stage to entertain the ticket holders with a humorous rundown of her various surgeries.

Sister Rosa has her child, whom she names Esteban in honor of Manuela's dead child (and, as it turns out, in honor of the father of both children—Esteban being the birth name of Lola). Rosa dies; Manuela confronts Lola at her funeral and informs her that she is the father of two children: Rosa's baby and Manuela's deceased son. Manuela takes the new Esteban to see his father.

Manuela and the child are living with Rosa's mother and dementia-struck father. Rosa's mother is overly controlling and distressed at the idea of Lola, whom Rosa's mother resents for the death of her daughter, holding Esteban. Manuela once again flees Barcelona for Madrid, once again carrying a baby named Esteban. After two years, Manuela returns to Barcelona and sees Rojo and Agrado in Rojo's dressing room; she informs them that the baby responded miraculously well to treatment (indeed part of why she returned to Barcelona was so that doctors at an AIDS conference could study the child) and that he no longer shows signs of HIV. Rojo, heading onto stage, turns back to Manuela and declares, in a tone far more serious than seems warranted, "I'll see you later."

That "I'll see you later," delivered with grave assurance in a moment of joyous reunion, on the one hand captures something of the grandiose melodrama that suffuses All About My Mother; on the other hand, it hints toward a complex understanding of time that the film explores. To say "I'll see you later" to someone is to invoke an inevitability of repetition. Replete with promise and resignation, the assertion declares that what is now shall be again. When said to another, especially one with whom one has an emotional connection, "I'll see you later" becomes a manner of incorporating oneself into time, of making time not simply the measure of a passing life but rather an investment in what is held dear. The phrase "return on an investment" is not accidental—I hope to see again what I hold to be important and valuable; I stake my existence on the return (the turning back toward me) of what I love.

Time as the site of investment, loss, repetition, and return is the subterranean concern that drives Almodóvar's film. When we first encounter Manuela she invests her time with her son, Esteban. We get a glimpse of their routines—the most basic form of repetition within time, or better a repetition of time. Manuela's work in the hospital is depicted as predictable even though she is involved in the supply side of organ transplants. Hence, what for the families of the deceased is an extreme and irrevocable moment, an irruption of pain and devastation, is for Manuela another day at work, part of a necessary but ultimately statistically predictable state of affairs.

None of this is to paint Manuela as callous or indifferent. But if life is to go on, if the daily repetitions are to continue for as many people as possible, then the rather macabre repetitions of the phone calls Manuela makes declaring the availability of harvested organs must also continue and must become routine—if only to be bearable.

In the evenings, Manuela finds herself at home with her son, preparing meals, discussing their lives, watching old films—in this case All About Eve, starring Bette Davis—on the television. They discuss Esteban's birthday, arriving on the following day, another repetition, and one marked by celebration, a return on the investment they make in each other, that Manuela makes in her hopes for her son's happiness and future. She gives him an early present: a novel by Truman Capote. Esteban asks her to read a portion of it to him as he lies in bed, recapitulating the formative scenes of the developing relationship between mother and child.

These kinds of repetition are the basis for our sense of circularity in time. The sun rises each morning, sets each evening. We go to work, to school; we come home, eat, converse. Every year we mark the day commemorating our birth and our advancing age—the repetition both denotes the advance and the fact that you are still you, still the person born on this day, and that this day in some way belongs to you.

Repetition, in this sense, supplies a feeling of ownership and control. If I can predict what the world will do, I am at least cognitively in charge of what happens. I see that it will come to pass and I tacitly will it to be so, to continue in the manner to which I am accustomed. The reassurance of this manner of repetition—what Gilles Deleuze refers to as the first synthesis of time—leads to habituation. Habit allows time itself to repeat, to fold in on itself, to create a hovering at-once-ness in our lives. Habit promises that this manner of living need not end; it is the eternal present that we occupy most of the time.

This need not be a falsehood, exactly. That is to say, from the point of view of habit, this circular structure of living time, our manner of living doesn't end. It repeats in a rotational manner; the circle being the good infinity in Hegel—the form of infinity that presents itself as a whole. Habit allows us to grasp our life as a whole and to see it as manageable and cognizable, to see it as ours. Time's circular instantiation through habitual repetition only becomes a lie when seen from the point of view of the other conceptions of time.

Manuela confronts this lie directly and it nearly destroys her. With the death of her son, Manuela witnesses the ineluctable and unrelenting force of time's arrow. This is the linear conception of time, a conception dependent on representation of past events in memory. We call to mind the images of the past. Of course, we need not consciously "call them to mind" for them to impact our lives, to come to us. They present themselves without becoming a present; they present themselves as a call from the past.

This notion of time is a constant reminder that the present passes immediately and irrevocably into the past. We are haunted by loss, by the irretrievable nature of what was and no longer is. No habit can take root here; all repetition is the infliction of pain. When Manuela is asked to allow Esteban's organs to be harvested for donation, in one sense, that is a repetition of the same scenario she has played out many times before in her vocation. But on the other hand, this is the first and only time that this can happen to her, that she is the mother being asked to accede to an impossible request. When Manuela sees Rojo in another performance of A Streetcar Named Desire she buys an empty seat for Esteban. With this small sentimental gesture, she recognizes the absence that haunts this repetition.

Cecilia Roth as Manuela and Marisa Paredes as Huma Rojo (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images / IMDB)

Repetition here takes the form of memory and it can be debilitating. We archive the past in a great and weighty reservoir of missed opportunity, the pain of separation, and the severing of vital connection. And when we can't live with that abiding sense of loss we long to manifest an impossible repetition—a return to the past precisely as it was. When that proves beyond our abilities, we try to recover some tiny fragment of the irrecoverable or we attempt to forget the past (this option is realized in Almodóvar's reworking of the ending of A Streetcar Named Desire when he has Stella leaving her abusive home).

Manuela executes this repetition by returning to Barcelona, returning to her former home in search of her former love, the father of her dead child. By returning to the past that her son never knew, by returning to the site of his conception, she, in some small and hopeless manner, attempts to bypass his disappearance into that past. She returns to Barcelona, not to live there precisely, but rather to live her death there, to live Esteban's death there.

Perhaps this is why she opens herself up to every passing opportunity, makes herself the locus of every rising potentiality. Nothing is at stake anymore, nothing matters. Therefore, Manuela allows anything to happen, she doesn't get in the way of the unfolding of events. She is happy to help her old friend Agrado, to serve as an improbable assistant to Rojo and an equally improbable surrogate mother to Rosa (after some reluctance) because she is adrift in a daze of past memory. But precisely in her unwillingness to insist upon meaning and stability, both arise. Despite the inexorable insistence of time's arrow that everything constantly changes, that all is lost at the very moment you reach for it and that no firm ground is available, Manuela finds security in her openness to others.

This is the space in which the third and most mysterious form of repetition emerges, the space of uncanny repetition. Manuela and Esteban watch the scene in All About Eve in which a famous actress is hounded by an autograph seeker. The following night Esteban dies trying to get an autograph from the famous Rojo. (The death in pursuit of an autograph is itself a "hidden" repetition of another film: Cassavetes's Opening Night). Of course, All About Eve follows the machinations of that autograph seeker in her attempts to replace the famous actress; Manuela eventually finds herself replacing Rojo's co-star and lover during a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Manuela's return to A Streetcar Named Desire is itself a repetition; she had played Stella in the film around the time she became pregnant with Esteban. Then she left Barcelona to escape Lola (Esteban's father, the first Esteban), now she has returned to find him. The central repetition involves the film's last act when she once again flees Barcelona with a child. This is a repetition of trajectory (out of Barcelona), a repetition of circumstance (fleeing an onerous parental figure of the child), a repetition of the child's identity (yet another Esteban, fathered by Lola who was herself an Esteban).

That culminating repetition would seem to tie a nice bow on All About My Mother, to seal, if only partially, the hole torn through Manuela from her son's death. But this is not the final repetition. Instead, we follow the train once again through the tunnel to Barcelona. Manuela, with the latest Esteban in tow, returns once again to the city and to her friends, reversing the trajectory and tearing open the closure gained through symmetry. Rojo assures Manuela and us, "I'll see you later."

The connections and repetitions, the returns through tunnels that describe never-ending trajectories as long as life continues, do not cease. But these last sets of repetitions are more difficult to describe. They are not repetitions that foster habit, nor are they repetitions that signify a pastness constructed of loss and pain. They are more akin to what Freud attempted to grasp in his various formulations of what he termed the "death drive", those uncanny returns of events and behaviors that seemed to involve a strange compulsion to repeat.

Freud's concern was not the compulsion of addiction or habit. He was troubled by the dreams of trauma victims returning again and again to the moment of trauma. He was puzzled by the games of children that seemed to reenact the painful moment of a parent's departure. He longed to understand the fact that some of his patients seemed to fall into the same patterns over and again: always falling in love with a deceiver, for instance.

Freud first discusses this phenomenon in Beyond the Pleasure Principle precisely because that is how he understood it. It was something "more primitive, more elementary, more instinctual than the pleasure principle which it overrides." The death drive is deeper than our tendency to reduce the intensity of negative experience by seeking out pleasure; indeed, it seems intent on increasing that intensity.

Huma Rojo's production of A Streetcar Named Desire is now in Barcelona. Mariela sees a show, buying an empty seat beside her in honor of Esteban. She meets Rojo, helps her find her drug-addicted costar and lover Nina (Candela Peña), and soon becomes Rojo's personal assistant. When Nina fails to appear for a performance owing to her drug abuse, Manuela (who had performed the play in an amateur group two decades prior and identified closely with it) played the role of Stella alongside Rojo's Blanche. Nina, jealous and suspicious, attacks Mariela's motives (believing that she seeks to replace Nina), leading to Mariela's confession of her connection to Rojo through the death of her son. (Rojo remembers the mysterious young man pleading for an autograph in the rain but was unaware of his demise.)

Manuela no longer feels comfortable working for Rojo but remains close to her; Agrado becomes Rojo's assistant. When Rojo and Nina again fail to appear for a performance (this time owing to a violent fight), Agrado takes the stage to entertain the ticket holders with a humorous rundown of her various surgeries.

Penélope Cruz as Hermana Rosa (IMDB)

Sister Rosa has her child, whom she names Esteban in honor of Manuela's dead child (and, as it turns out, in honor of the father of both children—Esteban being the birth name of Lola). Rosa dies; Manuela confronts Lola at her funeral and informs her that she is the father of two children: Rosa's baby and Manuela's deceased son. Manuela takes the new Esteban to see his father.

Manuela and the child are living with Rosa's mother and dementia-struck father. Rosa's mother is overly controlling and distressed at the idea of Lola, whom Rosa's mother resents for the death of her daughter, holding Esteban. Manuela once again flees Barcelona for Madrid, once again carrying a baby named Esteban. After two years, Manuela returns to Barcelona and sees Rojo and Agrado in Rojo's dressing room; she informs them that the baby responded miraculously well to treatment (indeed part of why she returned to Barcelona was so that doctors at an AIDS conference could study the child) and that he no longer shows signs of HIV. Rojo, heading onto stage, turns back to Manuela and declares, in a tone far more serious than seems warranted, "I'll see you later."

That "I'll see you later," delivered with grave assurance in a moment of joyous reunion, on the one hand captures something of the grandiose melodrama that suffuses All About My Mother; on the other hand, it hints toward a complex understanding of time that the film explores. To say "I'll see you later" to someone is to invoke an inevitability of repetition. Replete with promise and resignation, the assertion declares that what is now shall be again. When said to another, especially one with whom one has an emotional connection, "I'll see you later" becomes a manner of incorporating oneself into time, of making time not simply the measure of a passing life but rather an investment in what is held dear. The phrase "return on an investment" is not accidental—I hope to see again what I hold to be important and valuable; I stake my existence on the return (the turning back toward me) of what I love.

Time as the site of investment, loss, repetition, and return is the subterranean concern that drives Almodóvar's film. When we first encounter Manuela she invests her time with her son, Esteban. We get a glimpse of their routines—the most basic form of repetition within time, or better a repetition of time. Manuela's work in the hospital is depicted as predictable even though she is involved in the supply side of organ transplants. Hence, what for the families of the deceased is an extreme and irrevocable moment, an irruption of pain and devastation, is for Manuela another day at work, part of a necessary but ultimately statistically predictable state of affairs.

None of this is to paint Manuela as callous or indifferent. But if life is to go on, if the daily repetitions are to continue for as many people as possible, then the rather macabre repetitions of the phone calls Manuela makes declaring the availability of harvested organs must also continue and must become routine—if only to be bearable.

In the evenings, Manuela finds herself at home with her son, preparing meals, discussing their lives, watching old films—in this case All About Eve, starring Bette Davis—on the television. They discuss Esteban's birthday, arriving on the following day, another repetition, and one marked by celebration, a return on the investment they make in each other, that Manuela makes in her hopes for her son's happiness and future. She gives him an early present: a novel by Truman Capote. Esteban asks her to read a portion of it to him as he lies in bed, recapitulating the formative scenes of the developing relationship between mother and child.

These kinds of repetition are the basis for our sense of circularity in time. The sun rises each morning, sets each evening. We go to work, to school; we come home, eat, converse. Every year we mark the day commemorating our birth and our advancing age—the repetition both denotes the advance and the fact that you are still you, still the person born on this day, and that this day in some way belongs to you.

Repetition, in this sense, supplies a feeling of ownership and control. If I can predict what the world will do, I am at least cognitively in charge of what happens. I see that it will come to pass and I tacitly will it to be so, to continue in the manner to which I am accustomed. The reassurance of this manner of repetition—what Gilles Deleuze refers to as the first synthesis of time—leads to habituation. Habit allows time itself to repeat, to fold in on itself, to create a hovering at-once-ness in our lives. Habit promises that this manner of living need not end; it is the eternal present that we occupy most of the time.

This need not be a falsehood, exactly. That is to say, from the point of view of habit, this circular structure of living time, our manner of living doesn't end. It repeats in a rotational manner; the circle being the good infinity in Hegel—the form of infinity that presents itself as a whole. Habit allows us to grasp our life as a whole and to see it as manageable and cognizable, to see it as ours. Time's circular instantiation through habitual repetition only becomes a lie when seen from the point of view of the other conceptions of time.

Manuela confronts this lie directly and it nearly destroys her. With the death of her son, Manuela witnesses the ineluctable and unrelenting force of time's arrow. This is the linear conception of time, a conception dependent on representation of past events in memory. We call to mind the images of the past. Of course, we need not consciously "call them to mind" for them to impact our lives, to come to us. They present themselves without becoming a present; they present themselves as a call from the past.

Marisa Paredes as Huma Rojo and Fernando Guillén as Doctor in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' (IMDB)

This notion of time is a constant reminder that the present passes immediately and irrevocably into the past. We are haunted by loss, by the irretrievable nature of what was and no longer is. No habit can take root here; all repetition is the infliction of pain. When Manuela is asked to allow Esteban's organs to be harvested for donation, in one sense, that is a repetition of the same scenario she has played out many times before in her vocation. But on the other hand, this is the first and only time that this can happen to her, that she is the mother being asked to accede to an impossible request. When Manuela sees Rojo in another performance of A Streetcar Named Desire she buys an empty seat for Esteban. With this small sentimental gesture, she recognizes the absence that haunts this repetition.

Repetition here takes the form of memory and it can be debilitating. We archive the past in a great and weighty reservoir of missed opportunity, the pain of separation, and the severing of vital connection. And when we can't live with that abiding sense of loss we long to manifest an impossible repetition—a return to the past precisely as it was. When that proves beyond our abilities, we try to recover some tiny fragment of the irrecoverable or we attempt to forget the past (this option is realized in Almodóvar's reworking of the ending of A Streetcar Named Desire when he has Stella leaving her abusive home).

Manuela executes this repetition by returning to Barcelona, returning to her former home in search of her former love, the father of her dead child. By returning to the past that her son never knew, by returning to the site of his conception, she, in some small and hopeless manner, attempts to bypass his disappearance into that past. She returns to Barcelona, not to live there precisely, but rather to live her death there, to live Esteban's death there.

Perhaps this is why she opens herself up to every passing opportunity, makes herself the locus of every rising potentiality. Nothing is at stake anymore, nothing matters. Therefore, Manuela allows anything to happen, she doesn't get in the way of the unfolding of events. She is happy to help her old friend Agrado, to serve as an improbable assistant to Rojo and an equally improbable surrogate mother to Rosa (after some reluctance) because she is adrift in a daze of past memory. But precisely in her unwillingness to insist upon meaning and stability, both arise. Despite the inexorable insistence of time's arrow that everything constantly changes, that all is lost at the very moment you reach for it and that no firm ground is available, Manuela finds security in her openness to others.

This is the space in which the third and most mysterious form of repetition emerges, the space of uncanny repetition. Manuela and Esteban watch the scene in All About Eve in which a famous actress is hounded by an autograph seeker. The following night Esteban dies trying to get an autograph from the famous Rojo. (The death in pursuit of an autograph is itself a "hidden" repetition of another film: Cassavetes's Opening Night). Of course, All About Eve follows the machinations of that autograph seeker in her attempts to replace the famous actress; Manuela eventually finds herself replacing Rojo's co-star and lover during a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Manuela's return to A Streetcar Named Desire is itself a repetition; she had played Stella in the film around the time she became pregnant with Esteban. Then she left Barcelona to escape Lola (Esteban's father, the first Esteban), now she has returned to find him. The central repetition involves the film's last act when she once again flees Barcelona with a child. This is a repetition of trajectory (out of Barcelona), a repetition of circumstance (fleeing an onerous parental figure of the child), a repetition of the child's identity (yet another Esteban, fathered by Lola who was herself an Esteban).

That culminating repetition would seem to tie a nice bow on All About My Mother, to seal, if only partially, the hole torn through Manuela from her son's death. But this is not the final repetition. Instead, we follow the train once again through the tunnel to Barcelona. Manuela, with the latest Esteban in tow, returns once again to the city and to her friends, reversing the trajectory and tearing open the closure gained through symmetry. Rojo assures Manuela and us, "I'll see you later."

The connections and repetitions, the returns through tunnels that describe never-ending trajectories as long as life continues, do not cease. But these last sets of repetitions are more difficult to describe. They are not repetitions that foster habit, nor are they repetitions that signify a pastness constructed of loss and pain. They are more akin to what Freud attempted to grasp in his various formulations of what he termed the "death drive", those uncanny returns of events and behaviors that seemed to involve a strange compulsion to repeat.

Freud's concern was not the compulsion of addiction or habit. He was troubled by the dreams of trauma victims returning again and again to the moment of trauma. He was puzzled by the games of children that seemed to reenact the painful moment of a parent's departure. He longed to understand the fact that some of his patients seemed to fall into the same patterns over and again: always falling in love with a deceiver, for instance.

Freud first discusses this phenomenon in Beyond the Pleasure Principle precisely because that is how he understood it. It was something "more primitive, more elementary, more instinctual than the pleasure principle which it overrides." The death drive is deeper than our tendency to reduce the intensity of negative experience by seeking out pleasure; indeed, it seems intent on increasing that intensity.

Freud hesitantly postulated that the death drive was the impulse of living matter to devolve back toward its inanimate material substrate. That is to say, it is the urge of the organic to return to the inorganic. Now, many later commenters have found the notion of a self-destructive instinct rather dubious, and yet there is something in Freud's definition of the drive as the yearning of the organic for the state of the inorganic that is illuminating. The organic is organized of various distinct parts. To some extent, an organism is always at odds with itself. The intensities of the body get isolated and attenuated in specific areas as an inevitable consequence of that differentiation. But the body without organs in Deleuze's formulation is not so organized; it is the body of potentiality, the body of indeterminate flows, the body of intensity.

This last manner of repetition is akin to another sense of time, something along the lines of Nietzsche's "eternal return of the same" or what Deleuze refers to as "empty time". It is not the time of cyclicity leading to habit, nor is it the time of the linear unfolding of the ever new. This is a time of connection across seemingly impossible distances—not merely physical distance but spiritual or emotional distance, as well. Manuela is clearly not "in the habit" of absconding from Barcelona with children named Esteban in tow. We are meant to register this repetition as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

This third sense of time is not an unfolding of events, a chronology (whether repetitive or linear). It is an all-at-once of possibility and of being open to the possible, no matter how improbable. In this sense, Manuela isn't taking another Esteban away from Barcelona as a distant repetition of an earlier departure. She is always the woman who takes Esteban from Barcelona and returns with him. That moment is not a moment like others, and the film doesn't present it as such. It approximates the mythical—it is somehow eternal.

Indeed, that scene is the culmination of the film in multiple senses. It is the repetition that both seals the plot and leaves it forever torn open. Nothing has ended here; the moment vibrates with the intensity of possibility. In that moment, on that train, with that child, something of the eternal is manifest. What happens now happens for all time. Those moments are mythical because they never end; they repeat outside of passing time in an endless reverberation of the eternal recurrence. They are the incursions of the atemporal into a temporal plane that cannot withstand it. Those moments whisper in some inscrutable manner: "I'll see you later."

Criterion Collection has released a Blu-ray edition of Pedro Almodóvar's 13th feature-length film, All About My Mother. The film is beautifully captured and all of the colors for which Almodóvar is justly celebrated are in full force. The edition includes a 2012 documentary on the making of the film; a 1999 television program featuring Almodóvar and his mother; and a Q&A session that followed a 2019 screening of the film in Madrid. The insert includes an essay by scholar Emma Wilson, an interview with Almodóvar, and a 1999 tribute the director wrote to his mother.

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Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

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