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Pedro's back and Madrid has gone wild. With the release of his 17th
feature film, "Los Abrazos Rotos" (Broken Embraces) Almodovár tells the
tale of a blind film director (Lluis Omar) and how he came to lose not
only his sight, but also the love of his life (Penelope Cruz). The film
is by no means a departure from the Spaniard's typical traits, with the
picture employing the usual Almodóvar fodder love, lies, tears,
melodrama, comedy - to great effect. The film journeys between the past
and the present, and interweaves diverse stories and viewpoints, to
construct a fascinating drama full of twists and turns. The acting is
terrific and there are many 'in-jokes' involving subtle references to
previous Almodóvar films, with the picture rounded off nicely by a
soundtrack produced by the ever-brilliant Alberto Iglesias (featuring
original music alongside tracks by Uffie, Cat Power and Can).
My only gripe would be the film's length, clocking up over 2 hours a factor which is noticeable given that the film's storyline does seem to run out of steam after the 90-minute mark. But that minor complaint should not detract from the fact that Almodóvar has demonstrated himself to be one of the most individual and consistent film-makers in modern cinema. It must be said that 'Los Abrazos Rotos' is not the tour-de-force that some fans may have hoped for and falls short of eclipsing what in my opinion was his career high Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her). Nevertheless, Almodóvar delivers a very engaging film which is sure to become another hit, and will no doubt earn more accolades for the man who can deservedly call himself Spain's most successful film-maker of all time.
A wonderful film. One of Almodovar's finest, and probably the most accomplished work by Penelope Cruz, whose subtle performance as Lena is a real achievement. I was lucky enough to enjoy the film in a press preview, and simply adored it. The script is extremely complex, though this fact does not result in making the story difficult to follow. All characters are perfectly defined and handled by Almodóvar, in his rich, flamboyant style. I liked this film even more than Almodovar's previous "Volver". I found this more powerful, both visually and emotionally. The music score by Alberto Iglesias is simply alluring. Cinematography by Mexican Rodrigo Prieto is also very good. But the beauty of the film is basically due to the enormous talent of Señor Almodóvar. Thanks, Pedro!
There's never been any doubt about Pedro Almodovar's unquestioned,
unstoppable love for all things cinema, a fact that pops up frequently
in his body of work, most notably the autobiographical Bad Education.
Like that intrigue-heavy melodrama, Broken Embraces was shown in
competition at the Cannes Film Festival, with many critics and
bookmakers speculating about the director finally winning the Palme
d'Or after many unsuccessful attempts (the closest he came, apparently,
was with the stunning Volver). Of course, the movie received zero
awards (with the top prize going to Michael Haneke, another "perennial
loser" so to speak) and left many people who saw it indifferent. The
reason? Almodovar keeps making the exact same films year after year.
The "hero" of Broken Embraces is a Spanish screenwriter (Lluis Homar, who played the older priest in Bad Education) who calls himself Harry Caine (a mixture of fictional character Harry Palmer and the actor playing him, Michael Caine, or possibly a play on how Italians and Spaniards phonetically pronounce the English word "hurricane"). He's blind, and has gone off on a soul-searching journey to deal with a tragedy that occurred 14 years earlier. As the mystery surrounding his past unravels, flashbacks are used to depict a "happier" time, when he could still see, was known as Mateo Blanco and tried to make his last film, on the set of which he met and fell in love with actress Lena (Penélope Cruz), who unfortunately was involved with another, more powerful man...
It's easy to see why people choose to dislike the film: they're right, there's nothing really original in the screenplay (the "solution" to the mystery is easy to guess), in fact Almodovar seems to be going on autopilot, hitting the melodrama button without bothering to make sure he's doing it the right way. But that doesn't mean he never does a good job: visually, Broken Embraces is as enchanting as Volver, and if there's one thing the director hardly ever gets wrong, it's casting: Penélope Cruz is beautiful and convincingly vulnerable at the same time, Homar elicits enough sympathy as Mateo/Harry, and the "villain" of the piece (José Luis Gomez) is acceptably solid.
As for the self-referential streak in Almodovar's production (there's at least one in-joke in every film), he really hits gold this time, with fake footage of Mateo's lost film coming off as a clever pastiche of earlier hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which starred his other muse Carmen Maura. That scene alone justifies watching the film at least once. Broken Embraces may not be vintage Almodovar, but he's worth checking out even when he's "slacking".
Harry Caine is a blind scenarist and an outdated film director, whose
life is broken down due to a traffic accident 14 years ago in 1994.
While he was directing his movie "Girls and Suitcases" he was having an
affair with his leading actress Magdalena(Lena in short) playing by
Penélope Cruz. New make-ups and new hair designs every other scene,
Cruz stands out brightly at all the scenes that she's involved. She
came to the spot at the 7th minute of the theatrical cut, left 15
minutes earlier than everybody else in the movie.
This excellent work of storytelling in such a melodramatic plot worths to be vigorously applauded. It never becomes a melodrama even within in the crying scenes of Cruz nor the scenes of Mateo Blanco reminiscing Lena. The psychological trauma constituents enrich the focus of the movie right in position. Pedro Almodovar is known for using a script supervisor at his film set; and this surely brings the dialogues to perfection. Beefing up the storyboard via the scene connections, the time gap between 1994 and 2008 is used very wisely. You can still find a couple movie mistakes in anachronisms or factual errors -like mixing GBH and MDMA liquid drugs one after another, which will cause to golden hit and kills you, instead of giving you a girlishly fainting- yet the plot has no serious flaw as far as I realize.
Mainly together with 4 supporting actors and actresses, the film drew 6 different schemes for each character. Among all, Rubén Ochandiano played the toughest role as Ernesto Martel Junior decoding a gay person's characteristic development in a 14 years of period.
A traffic accident in which the lovers involving changed the lives of 6 people. This was the main idea here, reminding the Crash and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive with this concept and it deserves to be recognized with awards like them. Not advised to watch for a family movie due to mature subject matters, female nudity, drug usage, scenes of violence and mild language.
This is a very complex thriller, but also very rewarding. This is director Pedro Almodovar's film with the broadest spectrum. There are numerous plot's and subplots and it all seems a bit confusing, but once again, Almodovar brilliantly pulls it all together by the films end. Penelope Cruz is radiantly beautiful and gives her usual excellent performance. Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo and Jose Luis Gomez give superb performances. Almodovar is so amazingly visual, and there are several unforgettable images in Broken Embraces. The characters develop so incredibly well and the blending of all the stories is so striking to watch. Superbly done.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've never been a huge fan of Almodovar, but, generally, I've always
found something to enjoy in his films. Unfortunately, I had more
trouble finding something to enjoy in Broken Embraces then I would
normally think I would.
I find the biggest failure in Broken Embraces to be the characters and the lack of depth they display. The film is essentially a love story, one that is tragic, and one that wants to involve the viewer in their stories. I found this problematic from the beginning.
In the opening scene, our 'hero' the director/screenwriter, Mateo, is having sex with a very attractive young woman whom he just met. His agent comes in as the woman bashfully leaves.
In the opening scene, our 'hero' the director/screenwriter, Mateo, is having sex with a very attractive young woman whom he just met. His agent comes in, and rolls her eyes, as the woman bashfully leaves. Mateo babbles something about needing to enjoy life as the only thing he has left. Having been blinded in a tragic car accident that also killed his 'true' love Lena, played by Penelope Cruz, the viewer might buy into to this notion except the rest of the film really never illustrates why Lena was the love of his life or any depth to his character or any other.
Cruz plays Lena the mistress to an industrialist named Ernesto Martel. From the outset, their union is rather a pathetic one, as Martel clutches jealousy to Lena, and Lena avoids uncertainty of being on her own by staying with the much older Martel. To skip ahead, Martel finances a film for Mateo so he can keep tabs on the star of the film, Lena. Naturally, without any back story, Lena and Mateo fall in love. And, in Almodovar's world it really is that simple. Mateo, in the opening scene, has sex with a sexy young woman, now Mateo falls in love with Lena, later it's revealed he had a son with his agent after their love affair. Her son responds to this information with a laugh and an, "Oh, well." Again, no depth, no understanding for any of these characters, it all just happens. From the beginning of the film to the end, I got no depth of emotion from Mateo. He is flat, and doesn't act much different from one scene to the next.
The one scene I did enjoy was when film producer, Martel, is watching video footage his son recorded under the guise of doing a documentary of Mateo. There are nice a moment of Martel watching obsessively as a lip reading confirms his worst fears. Later, Lena confronts Martel as he's watching the footage and speaks her part out loud matching the video footage of her lips as she talks. Some quite brilliant moments. Rather contrived, but still really fascinating.
Unfortunately, for me, the rest of the film left me rather bored. I couldn't care about these characters or their situations, so no amount of cleverness on Almodovar's part can make up for this lack of depth. I think if you're a fan of his work you'll enjoy this movie, but if you're like me, in between, then you'll find it lacking.
In 1992, in Madrid, the secretary and escort girl Lena (Penélope Cruz)
becomes the mistress of the powerful entrepreneur Ernesto Martel (José
Luis Gómez) that is her boss and takes care of her terminal father. In
the present days, the blind screenwriter Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar)
known by his code name Harry Caine meets a beautiful blonde (Kira Miró)
on the street that offers to read the newspaper for him and tells that
Ernesto Matel has died. Then his agent Judit García (Blanca Portillo)
and her son Diego (Tamar Novas) arrive and Harry promises to end the
screenplay that he is writing until the end of the day. Judit leaves
the apartment and Harry is visited by a man code named X-Ray (Rubén
Ochandiano) that introduces himself as a filmmaker and asks Harry to
write the screenplay of his documentary about his intolerant father.
Harry recognizes him, refuses the request, sends him away and recalls
the year of 1994, when he was casting for his film "Chicas Y Maletas"
and met Lena. Sooner they fall in love for each other and Ernesto
Martel, who was the producer, sends his homosexual son to prepare the
behind scene and making off of the movie. With the support of a reader
of lips, the jealous and obsessive Martel daily falls each step of Lena
with tragic consequences for the couple of lovers.
"Los Abrazos Partidos" is another magnificent film of the talented Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who is among my favorite contemporary directors. The plot has a complex, but perfect screenplay with use of flashbacks with a marvelous development of the characters. Lluís Homar performs the lead character Mateo Blanco a.k.a. Harry Caine (a pun with hurricane) that uses two alternate names of Pedro Almodóvar and has a great performance. His erotic scene with the unknown and extremely gorgeous Kira Miró is astonishing. Penélope Cruz is stunning and has another top-notch performance directed by Almodóvar. The open conclusion is ironic after the remark of Mateo Blanco about "Chicas Y Maletas" and I liked it. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Abraços Partidos" ("Broken Hugs")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In short, this movie is a declaration of artistic bankruptcy.
Almodovar is easily the most important European film maker of the 80s and 90s. No other living director has shaped the style and contents of present-day European cinema more than him. It is therefore not easy to say that his latest effort is not just another disappointment after two lackluster films, but rather a complete and total disaster confirming that he has run out of ideas, out of humour and, worst of all, empathy for the characters he creates.
That is not due to the complexity of the story. All Almodovar films are almost impossible to summarize. This time, in fact, it's rather easy if you are familiar with his earlier work. "Broken Embraces" is a remake of "Law of Desire", only this time the director is straight and the jealous jilted lover is a millionaire.
For those of you not familiar with that film, I'm doing a summary. If you don't want to know too much, please skip this paragraph. A blind man, who used to be a famous movie director, seduces a sexy buxom woman reading a paper to him after a chance street encounter (yes, really, that's how it starts). Just then he gets a visit by his agent and best friend. He mentions to her that he has learned from the paper that a certain millionaire has died, which takes the story 14 years back. He can still see and is about to direct his next film. He stars the inexperienced mistress of the said millionaire as the lead, as he is instantly smitten with her. The millionaire discovers their affair via silent videos made by his gay son, which he has lip-synched by an interpreter (a few great scenes: Cecilia Roth). After violent quarrels, the mistress escapes with the director to a seaside resort where he learns that the millionaire, who produced the film, had it released in the worst possible edit, destroying the director's reputation. The couple decides to return, but has an accident in which the director turns blind and the would-be actress dies. Back in the present, he learns that his agent has preserved the film's negatives and starts to reconstruct it.
As in "Bad Education", there are various sub plots to beef up this rather thin story, and as in "Bad Education", the result is more confusing than satisfactory. For instance, the agent's son, who works as a DJ, has an accidental drug overdose - which is completely unnecessary for the plot, and also interpreted rather badly.
Mostly, however, the actors are not to blame, but the way their characters are written. Blanca Portilla as the agent has so many skeletons in her closet that not even a brilliant performance can save the character from ridicule. Lluis Homar is an old man's dream of a protagonist, living in an artificial world where an English alias and a few sweet words can seduce any super model. And Penelope Cruz is the embodiment of this old man's sexual fantasy. Her character is completely lifeless. It remains thoroughly incomprehensible why she would go from one old man, who at least helped her family, to a slightly less old man, who isn't charming enough to convince as either a romantic hero or a passion fuse.
But all these shortcomings wouldn't make this film so awful. However, Almodovar does the worst possible thing of a director (or any type of storyteller) running out of ideas: he quotes himself, something he has increasingly done, and to very little benefit. The film-within-the-film, which "Broken Embraces" uses as a plot-driving device, is actually "Women at the verge of a nervous breakdown" (1988), only this time it is called "Chicks and Suitcases". This rather unimaginative title may give you a hint how this beloved classic is treated here: while the dialog making up the final ten minutes of "Broken Embraces" is a frantic, over-the-top exchange of screwball one-liners in the original film, here it is a stern, colorless, pesky business encounter.
In conclusion, this is the D.O.A. brainchild of an exhausted creator of past marvels, pretty much as awful and disappointing as the last Indiana Jones feature. Maybe not so many people would agree with that, because Almodovar used to be such a genius. I'd rather offer my respect to his accomplishments by humbly asking the reader to watch "All about my mother", or "Tie me up", or "High Heels", or "Matador", all of which bear witness to Almodovar's unique and unmatched talent. A few more film like this, and his legacy may very well be destroyed for good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As usual, Pedro builds layer upon layer of introspective insight. As
before we have love, image, image as love through the eyes of a
filmmaker, love as obsession, obsessions of the filmmaker's eye, and
that imposed on the love discovered/portrayed.
This time the layering is more elaborate than in the past. This time, the film within is deeper and more overt, literally calling up Almodovar's first successful film about tensed femininity.
The structure is delicate and watching hi weave it is a sublime experience.
You have Cruz,who lives in a film world. At night, she enters the role of Severine, where she becomes someone else, an actress drawing deep on her sexual core. (The reference to this whole part of her life is offscreen, inherited from a Bunuel film.) This ends disastrously, and she retreats to ordinary life, which is a brief launching pad of normality. This is where we start.
The trigger for folding the layers is a dying father. From thence we create a fold of Severine/Cruz/Lena as acting as a rich man's lover, followed by her becoming an actual actress, Nurse Betty-wise. Here is where she encounters the filmmakers, whose films we see.
One is the film we are watching, presumably written by the son and derived from the initial idea he pitches: moral vampires who run bloodbanks, one of whom falls in love with someone who comes in. Another is the overt film-within, clearly "Women on the Verge." But it is occluded by bad vision and needs to be properly seen. Within that is a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" internal fantasy life, with Cruz adopting the Hepburn role, folded over onto the role she plays as mistress to a rich man.
A parallel film is a documentary of the making of the above film within, watched nightly as it is being shot by the rich man who stands here for the noir audience-manipulator. The film we are watching is unrolled to us in nested flashbacks: Harry (the primary Almodovar surrogate) telling the viewer the outer story, then telling his (unbeknownst to him) son.
That outer story has the filmmaker failing: making a bad film which kills his love and takes his sight, both literally. Or is it? We find that he is perhaps not blind and that the Severine/Cruz/Lena character is likely the woman who is his protector, enabler of his art (as producer) and mother of his child (about which he is also blind).
It sounds excessively nested and complex, blending Fellini, Bunuel, Medem, Antonioni, Greenaway and others. But as is Pedro's gift, it all flows freely, the folds and nests blend under the guise of magical realism and seem natural. So this is a tedg filmsfolding.com wet dream, right? Well, no.
Pedro is going through a crisis. Well, another crisis. He can build the folds, the layers. He can elaborate, going over and over the script in the manner of Joyce making Finnegan and add yet more introspective and external vectors. He builds and builds. But he is Harry Caine, a hurricane of obsessive structure and touching of remote womanness.
And he is blind. This film has none of the cinematic beauty that makes his structures matter. It lacks the images that make life full, that make sex be part of love. He gives us a film about why he lacks this, why he is blind including his gay distance from women.
So where "8 and a half" was this same sort of structure, but the tension in the folds produced profound, profoundly cinematic images on women, this is precisely the opposite: the images are not there. This filmmaker is not a filmmaker, but a blind screenwriter, hoping in his blindness to make a better "Women on the verge" by mining a newly found memory store.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Almodovar has this habit to recycle stories and characters that for some is regarded as his style. Every now and again you'll see 3 movies of his and have the impression two of them were rehearsals, drafts of the better piece. Compare Live flesh, Everything about my mother, and Broken embraces and you'll get my point. But Broken embraces came too late. The better piece was Everything about my mother. If I'm wrong, this movie will win an Oscar. I do acknowledge Penelope's performance. Mature, meticulous, touching. The cast in general was a good one, although if you follow Spanish television you'll realize some actors were also recycling their own stereotyped characters from TV shows. So, my overall impression is that Almodovar overused recycled material and that had me, and many around me, yawning a lot. Oh, and the rotten cherry on the pie: Mateo was Diego's father!!! Yawn again.
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