Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces (which we previously brought you a sneak peak at the trailer) is a film featuring women, amazing and conflicted women, but not one that is necessarily about them. This is strange for the director, whose body of cult classics is virtually devoted to the art of women on film– their strength, their coyness, their sexiness, their hilarity, their vitality. Women, the guy loves them! However, as any fan of Almodovar’s work knows, if there is one thing he loves more than women, it’s the cinema. And Broken Embraces is a love note for the most part to his first love, the celluloid world, but also a less-than subtle nod to his mistress, the almighty woman.
Broken Embraces is the elaborate story of blind screenwriter Harry Caine (played by Lluis Homar), who lost his sight years before in a tragic car crash. Since the loss of his vision, Harry has abandoned his budding directing career, and buried his former identity, including his real name Mateo Blanco. Life seems to be going well for him as Harry Caine, but the writer and his staff–namely his production manager and former lover Judit (Blanco Portillo)– are shaken one day by the visit of a mysterious director referring to himself as only Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano), who wants Harry to write a script about the decline of famous business tycoon Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez). This request exposes a tangled web of past confusions, including a tragic and dramatic love triangle between Martel, Mateo/Harry and the beautiful Lena (Penelope Cruz).
Penelope Cruz’s performance as Lena, a troubled woman who starts off as tycoon Martel’s secretary and becomes his mistress, is a strong one. Almodovar, who previously directed the actress in several films including Volver, seems to coax the most layered performances out of the Hollywood starlet. Cruz’s Lena goes through several layers of character transformations in the film; from an emotionally shaken woman, to a woman willing to sacrifice her body for financial gains, to a woman battered and abused, and finally a love sick fool. Her performance throughout all of these is true to life– people are always complex, and Cruz wraps all of Lena’s complexities into one resilient, if emotionally tested, package.
The film, as all of Almodovar’s work, is expertly shot and full of the vivid colors he is famous for. Beautiful interiors, detailed costumes, and lush exteriors (including sandy beaches) are all captured on camera. Every scene pops with intense colors that are nothing short of intoxicating!
The plot of Broken Embraces allows Almodovar to experiment with the concept of the “film within a film” on several layers. The entire movie is a self-reflexive indulgence; Broken Embraces is a film about a filmmaker making films, and involves the production of two films (one being Matteo Blanco’s feature film and the other being a behind-the-scenes documentary). This does confuse the plot at times, but confusion aside, it creates a venue to explore Almodovar’s first love, moving making. Everything from writing a compelling story, to recording sound, to producing it all and editing the finished product is detailed. But the process is never portrayed as something only a film geek would relate to. What’s really genius about this movie is Almodovar equating his passion for filmmaking to the same intensity of a tragic love affair. And that is what makes Broken Embraces a story about the intensities, tragedies, and eventual triumphs of love of all kinds.
Broken Embraces sees an 11/20 release in New York and a 12/11 release in Los Angles. Enjoy the trailer below.
- For Your Viewing Pleasure: Broken Embraces Trailer
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