I am interested in Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz’s assertion about Penelope Cruz in All About My Mother (Spain: Pedro Almdóvar, 1999). Acevedo-Muñoz says that, “…the celebrated body of actress Penélope Cruz is reclaimed by Almódovar in this film and disrobed of its scopophilic and erotic function as seen in films like Bigas Luna’s Jamon, jamon (1992)” (34). Although I have not seen All About My Mother or Jamon, jamon, I am familiar with Penélope Cruz’s status as a “sex symbol”. It is well known that she is a successful model in addition to being an actress. Acevedo-Muñoz makes the point that Almdóvar played against her “sex symbol” status, “…by casting her against type and putting her to play a pregnant nun with AIDS.” (34). The contrast of Penélope Cruz’s status as a sex symbol and her character’s physical deterioration highlights the illness. Douglas Crimp says that, “AIDS does not exist apart from the practices that conceptualize it, represent it, and respond to it. We know AIDS only in and through those practices” (3). Almdóvar, in my opinion, seems to be exploring this idea in All About My Mother. By casting Penélope Cruz, he chose an actress who would deliberately contrast with preconceived notions of illness to highlight the fact that the concept of AIDS is created by attempts to represent it. AIDS only exists in All About My Mother through its deliberately exaggerated portrayal.
Acevedo-Muñoz, Ernesto. “The Body and Spain: Pedro Almdóvar’s All About My Mother.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video, vol. 25, no. 1, 2003, pp. 25-38.
Crimp, Douglas. “AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism.” Aids: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism, edited by Douglas Crimp, MIT Press, 1988, pp. 3-16