Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Released November 20, 2009
Pedro Almodovar is a cinematic master. Films like “Volver” and “Talk to Her” exemplify an artful approach to moviemaking and delight in presenting fantastical takes on otherwise ordinary people that make them come magnificently alive. His latest film is a similarly breathtaking journey with colors that pop and performances that wow. Even more spectacular is the fact that Almodovar’s new film centers on a screenwriter who’s able to live two lives by harking back to the past and penning a new future for himself through which to live vicariously.
“Broken Embraces” is the story of blind author Harry Caine, who is working on a new script with the assistance of his manager Judit and her dutiful son Diego. Harry has a wild imagination, and his skill and experience help to make his conceived stories all the more intriguing and marvelous. It soon becomes clear that Harry has a far more interesting past behind him, one full of splendor and incredible personalities. The film is entirely intriguing and entertaining up until the point that Harry begins to recount tales of his former life to Diego, and the historical trip makes the film glisten and glow even more.
Harry’s secrets shouldn’t be spilled in any sort of detail, but what’s generally important and notable about them is that they involve making a film. The star of said film is Lena, portrayed by Almodovar regular Penelope Cruz. Almodovar clearly adores the vivacious Cruz, and her initial entrance frames her as nothing less than a queen. Every time she appears on screen, the camera stays on her and tracks her every move, equating the smallest flutter of her eyelashes as a thing of beauty. Almodovar loves Cruz, and he treats her with the utmost respect and lavishes her with screen time and elegant shots. It’s an extraordinarily effective way of enhancing her performance.
Cruz’s acting needs no enhancing, of course. She’s at her best in her native language, and this performance is easily as good as, if not better than, her astonishing turn in “Volver.” Lluis Homar is dry, sarcastic, funny, and ultimately terrifically sympathetic as Harry Caine, and Blanca Portillo stands out among the supporting cast as the eternally loyal and self-sacrificing Judit. Jose Luis Gomez commands the screen in his role as enormously successful businessman and producer Ernesto Martel, and the extreme reactions he displays on his stony face are remarkable. The cast as a whole works together in the most amazing way, and there’s not a weak link to be found.
Almodovar’s singular vision presents absorbing characters he clearly finds interesting, and the amount of emotion and personality he imbues them all with is splendid. Almodovar casts a magical spell over his stories and his characters that makes them impossible to resist and essential to follow. This film seems especially personal for the auteur, as Caine espouses a love for cinema and yearning to produce meaningful narratives and finished products. It’s an excellent way for Almodovar to become a true part of his work, and it’s clear that he has something incredibly worthwhile to share about a medium in which he’s so experienced and has so much to offer.
Friday, November 20, 2009