Pedro Almodovar has submitted his muchanticipated new film, Volver, forcompetition at Cannes.

"The selectors have seenit and I understand they liked it, and we will have an answer from them inApril," Almodovar said.

The director openedCannes in 2004 with his last film, Bad Education (La Mala Educacion), and wonbest director honours in 1999 for his widely praised All About My Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre).

Volver was receivedwarmly by the international press gathered Monday morning at one of Madrid'semblematic downtown cinemas. One reporter called the movie a "gift."

Volver may have thepotential to reach an even broader audience than usual for the internationallyacclaimed director.

Star Penelope Cruz hasuniversal appeal while some of the more outlandish characters andcharacteristic story twists are absent from this family tale.

Cruz plays a young motherwith a dark past struggling to make ends meet in the story of two sisters whosemother comes back from the dead. Early Almodovar muse Carmen Maura, star of WomenOn The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, Law Of Desire and Matador, plays the mother.

The film, whose titletranslates as "to return," marks many returns for the director: from workingagain with Maura and Cruz, to a female-led cast and lighter tone after themale-centred intense drama of Bad Educationand Talk To Her, to the rural, wind-sweptvillages of his childhood in La Mancha.

Cruz is spellbinding as Volver's undeniable protagonist, oozing a mid-centuryglamour and sex appeal modeled on the young Sophia Loren.

The director admitted shemight have been conceived as too attractive for the movie's storyline. She doeslook out of place among the other drably-clad characters in the film, but lessso at Monday's press conference where photographers mobbed her and the podiumwas dotted with "Giorgio Armani Cosmetics" logos.

Almodovar said Cruz'scharacter in Volver and Maura'ssuffering housewife in his 1984 dark comedy What Have I Done To DeserveThis' "are the same person with 20 years'difference."

Cruz, who has appeared intwo other Almodovar films (Live Flesh andAll About My Mother), recalled sneakinginto theatres to see his movies when she was a teenager, saying his 1990 blackcomedy Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! inspired her choice of career. "I went to seethat film when I was 13. That was the day I decided to get an agent."

The other protagonistsall underscored that it is every Spanish actor's dream to work with Almodovar.

"Professionally as anactress you can't ask for more than to work with someone who understands somuch about actors, about emotions," said Blanco Portillo, a local TV andtheatre actress who co-stars along with Lola Duenas (The Sea Inside) and newcomer Yohana Cobo, who plays Cruz'sdaughter. Almodovar required three months of rehearsals six hours a day fromthe actresses.

Warner Bros will open Volver this Friday in Spain on around 200 screens.Almodovar scored his best ever opening in Spain in March 2004 with BadEducation, whichgrossed just under $1.4m(Euros1.2m) from almost 229,000 admissions from 158 prints the first weekend.That film went on to earn a cumulative $7.3m (Euros 6.1m) in Spain.

Volver is currentlyscheduled for a June 23 release in the US through Sony Pictures Classics. FocusFeatures has handled international sales on the El Deseo production.