Broken Embraces (2009) Poster

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Enjoyable and good Almodovar melodrama with nice acting from main and support cast
ma-cortes12 February 2018
The picture was competently directed by Pedro Almodovar in his usual style, being produced by his brother Agustin Almodovar and their production company , El Deseo . Interesting and agreeable drama by Almodovar plenty of passions , love , death , twists and great performances . In Madrid , Harry Caine (Luis Homar) is a blind screenwriter and ex-filmmaker , long time ago was still known by his real name , Mateo Blanco , he is helped by Judit (Blanca Portillo) and her son Diego (Navas) . Harry attempts to heal his injures from 14 years back when he had a car accident along with his sweetheart . But the past comes rushing in when Harry to be aware the death of Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez) , a powerful producer , and Ernesto's son (Ruben Ochandiano) pays Harry a visit . In a lot of flashbacks we watch how Mateo , falls in love with Ernesto's mistress, Lena (Penélope Cruz) , and casts her in a picture , which Ernesto produces . Later on , the disturbing Ernesto sends his son to film the making of the movie, to follow Lena and Mateo, and to give him the daily footage , then things get awry .

The picture is narrated by a series of flashbacks to the 1990s containing intense drama , passion, twists , obsession , jealousy, guilt , and surprises . The movie has an autobiographical dimension, but that is indirectly, through the weird characters . Almodóvar told about ¨Abrazos rotos¨ or ¨Broken embraces¨ the following : ¨ I believe it is the most complex script I've ever written and during the writing of this film and also during the shoot, I did find myself in a different place. The way of making the film, the way of telling the story, the actors' tone and the way of editing was, you could say, a departure from some of my previous films. The film is much more balanced between the female characters and the male characters. This is also something new for me. I do feel that this film is a true declaration of love for cinema. I could almost say that cinema perfects all the irregularities, or the imperfections, of life¨ . And about Penélope Cruz : ¨Penélope was born to be an actress. She is someone who is extremely emotional, and if she was not an actress it could be a problem for her. It's luck she has chosen a profession that allows her to express something that would be too much for a normal person. Otherwise she would suffer a lot. And even now maybe she suffers too much¨ .

The main cast is frankly extraordinary , as Luís Homar as a blind writer who reaches this moment in time , but the sad past returns ; Penélope Cruz as the gorgeous Lena ; and José Luis Gómez as the jealous and obsessive Ernesto. The support cast is pretty good , such as : Blanca Portillo , Ruben Ochandiano , Lola Dueñas , Ángela Molina , Kiti Mánver , Mariola Fuentes , Carmen Machi ,Rossy de Palma , Alejo Sauras , Kira Miró and Chus Lampreave , Pedro's ordinary . Sensitive and enjoyable soundtrack by Oscar Winner Alberto Iglesias , Almodovar regular. Colorful and evocative cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto .

The motion picture was well directed by Pedrro Almodóvar , considered to be the most internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker since Luis Buñuel .He often uses symbolism and metaphorical techniques to portray circular storylines .His films often portrays strong female characters and transsexuals and he has directed one Oscar nominated performance: Penélope Cruz in Volver (2006) . His first films were in low budget and had certain success , such as Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón , Entre tinieblas , Laberinto de pasiones , What Have I Done to Deserve This? . Pedro subsequently made several hit movies . He spent 10 years writing the script for La mala educación (2004) (a.k.a. "Bad Education"), during which time he made such acclaimed films such as Todo sobre mi madre (1999) (a.k.a. "All About my Mother") and Hable con ella (2002) (a.k.a. "Talk to Her") , the script is based upon a short story he wrote as an adolescent, which was based upon his experience at a Catholic boarding school . Pedro has got a lot of hits with dramatic films as Talk to her , Volver , The flower of My secret , The sin I live in, Carne Trémula, Tacones Lejanos , Ley Del Deseo , Matador and many others.
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Spain's finest export strikes again
mc_19018320 March 2009
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.
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Almodovar's embrace with cinema
Max_cinefilo8921 November 2009
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".
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Wonderful film
ianko_lopez18 March 2009
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!
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Another great Almodovar film.
james higgins30 March 2010
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.
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The Last Kiss
Claudio Carvalho10 April 2010
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")
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Rather Shallow and Contrived
kasserine30 December 2009
Warning: 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.
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A far cry from its typical genre, Los Abrazos Rotos is a bridge of destiny between a Love Triangle and a Dual Family Disaster
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.
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Not Almodovar's best, but still worth seeing
runamokprods31 July 2010
TTechnically beautiful, and well acted by the leads (some of the supporting cast is less than stellar), but there's a bit too much in this film-noir/comedy/romantic tragedy that feels over- the-top, for it to be a great film. And the homages to Hitchcock, Sirk, Amodovar's younger self, etc. walk the line between amusing and distracting. That said, this did improve on a second viewing, and became a more emotional and satisfying experience. A now blind writer remembers his past as a director with a different name who had a great love affair with his leading lady (Penelope Cruz, beautiful and wonderful as always), much to the fury of her powerful, industrialist sugar-daddy. Never boring, often enthralling, but somehow ultimately just a tiny touch less than the sum of its parts.
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Blind Onion
tedg16 January 2010
Warning: 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 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.
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Not much to embrace
C-Younkin9 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
What's with Spanish filmmakers and their need to jump backwards and forwards in time, only to create tragic stories that don't amount to a whole lot in the end? After "The Burning Plain", I was hoping that Pedro Almodovar's new film "Broken Embraces" would give us a little more to chew on. I was wrong.

We're first introduced to a blind screenwriter living in Madrid in 2008 named Mateo who goes under the pseudonym Harry Caine (Lluis Homar). He is shocked to hear of the death of Ernesto Martel. The movie then goes back to 1992 when Martel (Jose Luis Gomez) is a business man with a hot little secretary named Lena (Penelope Cruz). Lena's father is dying of cancer and Martel offers to help the family pay for his treatment. Only this comes with a cost for Lena, who becomes his trophy-girlfriend. Back in 2008, Harry is contacted by a young filmmaker named Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano), who wants Harry to help him tell a story about a gay son who gets back at his homophobic father. Harry denies Ray's offer and Ray angrily leaves, leading us to believe a thriller is about to break out where Ray is a psycho-stalker.

There are a few plot twists, flashbacks to 1992 where Harry (still with vision) is directing a film with Lena as his star, and a love triangle that turns violent but "Embraces" feels like Almodovar is going through a lot of trouble for what amounts to very little. The constant time shifts, too many characters figuring into the plot (Mateo's manager and her son among them), the thriller elements that never materialize into anything exciting, the tragic love story, and secrets (most of which predictable) finally revealed are all supposed to figure into why Harry eventually made just a sub-par film. Who cares? There are two highlights here. One is Penelope Cruz, who can play sexy better than anybody and the animal-like passion between her and Homar is undeniably felt. The movie springs to life whenever they're together, especially during a photo-shoot where she portrays Mateo's Marilyn Monroe. The movie is also gorgeously shot by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto.
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The Intellectual's "Indy and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Radu_A18 November 2009
Warning: 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.
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even minor Almodovar is worth a look-see
Roland E. Zwick18 November 2010
Pedro Almodovar's latest, "Broken Embraces," is like a high-class telenovela for the art-house crowd.

Its love triangle - involving a film director (Lluis Homar), his gorgeous lead actress (Penelope Cruz) and her elderly, abusive boyfriend (Jose Luis Gomez) who's financing the film on which they're working - spans the period from 1994 to 2008. In the present time, the financier, Ernesto Martel, has just died, while the director, Mateo Blanco, who has since become blind, has plans for writing another film. But what's become of Lena, the girl of both of their dreams, in the intervening years?

Structurally, the movie divides its focus fairly evenly between the two time periods. The intricately plotted narrative unravels like a conventional mystery story, with clues being dropped in at key moments and character connections and motivations becoming ever more clearly defined as the movie goes on.

This isn't prime Almodovar, by any means, but the customary florid melodrama, color-rich palette and elegant direction make it a worthy addition to the director's oeuvre.
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pablufu1 January 2010
Warning: 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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Almodovar's Latest is Over Long and Uncomfortable Going
omahonyjason21 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Pedro Almodovar is an Oscar winning director that has won more awards than you can shake a stick at. He's been nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, won at the Venice Film Festival and won a People's Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival. He is, then, held in extremely high regard by all in the film world. There's no denying the brilliance of his films. But, I'm afraid, this last one left me cold. Sure, Penelope Cruz is as firey hot as ever. Sure, the characters are brilliantly drawn. Sure, it has some beautiful photography, in particular the sun bleached shots of Lanzarote but some where along the way the film just lost me. It went on too long and, by the time it finished, I had long since stopped caring.

The films centres around Harry Caine, a man that writes, lives and loves in darkness as a consequence of being involved in a horrifying car crash on the island of Lanzarote that caused him to lose, not only the love of his life, Lena, but also his sight.

Prior to the accident he had used two different names – one name for each of his two professions. Harry Caine was the playful pseudonym he used when writing literary works, stories and scripts. Marco Blanco, his real name, was used in his work as a film director. After the accident, Blanco, who can no longer direct films having lost his sight, is subsumed into Caine because the only way he can continue, having also lost his beloved Lena, is to live with the idea that Marco Blanco also died in that horrific car crash on Lanzarote.

Caine makes a living thanks to the scripts that he writes and to the support he receives from his production manager, Judit Garcia, and her son, Diego.

Because Caine writes stories for a living, his life becomes his greatest creation. Having lost his sight, his other senses are heightened and he lives life as only an ironic Spanish lover can, in a blissful state of self-induced amnesia. He erases his real personality, Blanco, both from his life and from his biography and it is only when Diego has an accident and suddenly asks Caine about his previous incarnation that Harry is suitably shaken from his reverie and tells Diego the true story of his life.

BROKEN EMBRACES is the longest and most expensively made of all Almodovar's films and while many of his previous films were in some way about film or the film-making process the topic leaps to the fore here. I found it uncomfortable going and not only because of the length. The mazy plot was over cooked and while the stand out performances left an impression, they were never enough to make the characters really resonate with me. I left the cinema without caring about them or, ultimately, the film. Against that, if you are a fan of Almodovar then chances are you'll love it but I don't think the film will create any new devotees.
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A sorry Almodovar. A truly, deeply, and disappointingly slow sorrow maelstrom
vostf4 June 2009
There's not much to say when Pedro Almodovar gives us a good movie. Even less when he gives us a wonderful movie. Unfortunately Los Abrazos Rotos is way way below Todo Sobre Mi Madre, Hable con Ella, and one slight cut below Volver. Even La Mala Educacion was somewhat more consistent.

Maybe Almodovar got stuck in the trap of self-importance as he wanted to tell a story about movies, about his love for cinema. Movie references in his previous works were just subtle touches, even when he insisted on speaking of All About Eve in All Todo Sobre Mi Madre (About My Mother).

Los Abrazos Rotos starts out nice, this blind writer seems to have a lot to show us. With the first flashback to 1992 we already lose some ground since we are shifting gears down to another emotional setup; from there we start over grounded in pathos, so it is like we are told to hold back, just like the main characters. Since we are curious about the whole backstory we can take some of this, even though we're left with very little to chew as it unfolds. Eventually, when we know it all about the drama 14 years back, the movie painfully drags its feet to a dull ending. I would never have imagined Almodovar could get so boring. Was it just him drowned in nostalgia for a time when all his energy would come easily and easily translate into those buoyant, yet emotional, features like Chicas y Maletas -- I mean Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios?

It seems to me there's a big bug in the script (damn, I would never have imagined myself indulging in the critique of one of Almodovar's scripts). Basically, all major characters are on the same emotional level: they all bear the scars of a painful love and none is speaking his mind. We're just there to wait, overwhelmed by pathos, until a long winding flashback will tell us more. Maybe the movie starts up too emotional and fails to lighten up before going back to its roots. Hable con Ella didn't really ever lighten up but it was way more focused. So I dare say Almodovar messed up his craft here. It's not that bad since he gave us so much before, but it's quite a big letdown.
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A must see
perrusj20 March 2009
I just saw it, here in Madrid. If you are an Almodovar's fan, don't loose this one by any chance, especially if you liked ("everything about my mother"). If your not is fan, at least watch it without prejudice! It's a fabulous movie that mixes up several stories about greed, grief, suffer and love. Sometimes the film seems complicated, but don't worry, as everything will be clear at the end. There's a lot of humor, but maybe you won't last till the final scenes. As usual in Pedro's films, there are strange families, orphan children, gays, passion, death... And once more, Penelope is amazing. I gave it an 9/10, and I think it's well worth it.
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Below par
Framescourer10 September 2009
A consistent but drifting film. It's as if the director has his mind one thing but presents the audience with another. It's a highly professional version of the one film every film maker gets to do, i.e. the somewhat indulgent, possibly biopic rumination on their life in their work.

Broken Embraces is about the film-making process: its temptations, sacrifices, politics, frustrations, contradictions and rewards. Almodovar is discreet about his own love of the medium, barring one painful trawl through his own (by extension) DVD collection. The problem is that he can't quite settle on which plot thread to make the principal story. Essentially it's a flashback tale in the life of the director- scriptwriter Mateo, played well if imperfectly by Lluís Homar. The most significant drama is his love affair with his leading lady - Cruz as muse, here in art, as in Almodovar's life. She is good, if predictable. So it goes on.

There are plot dead ends, dramatic peaks which have little precedent and go nowhere... strangely it hangs together, although I was a little bored. 4/10
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really awful
mar9tin24 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It is a film about jealousy, rather crudely sexual, and has the quality of a fado about it none of which I think audiences in non-Latin countries will appreciate. (I am not sure that includes the US.) It is also yet another movie about movie makers. The plot centers on a now blind playwright, Harry Caine, who is asked by the drug-addicted, homosexual son of a recently deceased millionaire financier, Ernesto Martel, to write a script about his father's relationship with him to be made into a film which he'll produce. Cruz was Martel's secretary, Lena, whose own father was mistreated by the health service, causing her to return to prostitution to get money for private treatment. It turns out her boss is the madam's best client, who not only knows all about her previous career, but wants to screw her, which she initially refused. However her father turning worse, she turned to him for help, eventually becoming his mistress. The son's offer is refused once his identity is revealed, since Caine was involved years earlier in a venture with his father, and Caine's production manager believes the boy is mad. While she is away Caine and her son, Diego embark on the script for a vampire film. If at this point the viewer is inclined to think Broken Embraces is all plot, he is right. This, unfortunately, seems to be a sign of the times, especially, it seems, in Latin countries.

Diego, it turns out, works as a DJ in a club with the son, who calls himself Ray-X, where, grabbing the wrong laced drink, he collapses. In bed he gets Caine to tell him Ray-X's story. Fourteen years previously, wanting to be an actress, Cruz auditioned for the then-sighted Caine's first comedy, 19-year-old Ernesto Jr in tow, unnerving both him and Martel, who, in order to retain control of the situation bankrolled the film. Caine, known then as Mateo Blanco, proceeds to fall in love with her while Diego's mother, Judit Garcia, and Ernesto Sr become jealous. Ernesto Jr is asked by Ernesto Sr to make a documentary about the making of the film as a means of spying on them. Their love scene occurs no less than 51 mins in, followed immediately by another with the financier cleverly wrapped in a sheet. Courtesy of a lip reader the documentary reveals her true feelings about the latter episode to him. The contrived appearance of a tripod while he films a tryst gives Cruz the opportunity for a Hitchcockian moment, and another follows in its footsteps, as Ernesto pushes her down the staircase, resulting in a totally unbelievable injury, which was as painful to watch as it might have been to the stunt double.

She could at this point have accused him of attempted murder, but instead she uses the opportunity to bribe him to finish the film. He agrees thinking perhaps that her love for the director is limited to that, but he continues to abuse her, and she and Caine disappear for a month together in improbable scenery on the Canary Islands, while he attempts to pressure them to reveal their whereabouts by completing the film without them. Caine needed a better contract, I guess. Caine reveals his new name and phone number to the hitherto trusted Judit, who refuses to talk with him and he decides to return to Madrid, leaving Cruz on the island, but they are followed to the aeropuerto by Ernesto Jr, and their car struck by a large SUV at a roundabout killing her and blinding him. Entering their hotel room Judit finds all the pictures of the pair ripped to shreds. The scene shifting back to the present, Judit fesses up, to what is surely obvious (at least to me, who am writing this as I'm watching for the first time). Along with jealousy, there must be some kind of thing about confession in the Latin character. She does not, however, confess to knowing anything about the SUV nor to role her feelings for him played. But the next morning she tells Diego that Caine is his father, which should have been obvious, but is really extraneous except perhaps to absolve her of jealousy and end the film on a positive note.

Americans would expect to develop sympathy with some character, and it seems that the director intended it, but there is no room for that here, and it is not that they are all objectionable, altho one could make a case for it, but that they are simply shallow and unsympathetic. The only sympathy I had was for the good-looking blonde at the beginning of the film, who would not allow her breasts to be shown in the same frame as her face. Possibly intended is a statement on people whose only means of obtaining love is by charity and its inevitably neurotic character. If so there would be some merit in it, but it is swamped by the unnecessary action and imagery, and above all by the boring confession. If there is some other symbolism or autobiographical connection to be made, such as with Godard, Chabrol or other directors who have taken up with their leading ladies, I missed it, altho perhaps the film reflects Cruz's own relationship with Almodovar. In all, IMHO this a really terrible film and I give it far fewer stars than the IMDb average. The average European TV detective show is better.
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To be seen again and again
Mihnea the Pitbull9 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
An intelligent, sensitive, cruel and ironic reflection about realities intertwined... Past and present, self and alter-ego, movie-in-the-movie and movie-about-the-movie-in-the-movie, all mingle together following a strange and thorough recipe. Almodovar meditates about the condition of the artist, without the melodramatic heroics of so many fore-goers, by choosing a painful paradox - the one of the creator who loses his crucial tool (same as Beethowen grew deaf, same as Luchian lost the control over his hands; here, Mateo Blanco is a movie director who turned blind - and now, fourteen years later, reconsiders everything that happened in the past. The narrative is built with a savvy mastering of all the joints, producing both insight and increasing tension. Definitely, not a movie easy to follow - one than you should see again and again.

Unfortunately, it's true that all the structure is a bit over-long, and the pace tends to lag in certain parts - but, since the concluding impression is that of "I want to come back to this movie", I guess the boring bits will become less so at a second and third viewing. Aftr all, Antonioni's "Blowup" also started by confusing and exasperating me - and, around the seventh of eight time, I was already gushing loving "wow!"s over every shot.
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A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Pedro Almodóvar's homage to film-making
Murtaza Ali1 May 2013
Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces (2009) is a strange yet intriguing work of cinema. A heartbreaking tale of love, Broken Embraces highlight's the Spanish filmmaker's love for filmmaking as well the medium, which is underlined by the following line spoken by the movie's protagonist: "No, what matters is to finish it. Films have to be finished, even if you do it blindly." Almodóvar is not the first filmmaker to pay homage to cinema. Time and time again, filmmakers have used their films to express their overwhelming love for the medium: be it Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Giuseppe Tornatore, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Altman, or Martin Scorsese.

Broken Embraces (2009) is far from being a masterpiece. In fact, it's not even Almodóvar's best film, but it does have its moments that are enough to make it worthy of a watch. Almodóvar seems to have perfected his unique style by borrowing bits and pieces from the masters of cinema. Those who have followed Alfred Hitchcock's body of work closely would know that sex and humor were two of his major elements. And Almodóvar, a great fan of the Master of Suspense, too relies heavily on these two powerful elements often blending them with an equally potent weapon: social commentary. And like Hitchcock, Almodóvar loves to revisit his old works in an effort to further refine his quaint yet effective ideas. In fact, it is not very difficult for the keen-eyed viewers to spot the recurring patterns in Pedro Almodóvar's films, just like in Hitchcock's. And Broken Embraces is no different in this regard with the ever so ambitious Almodóvar trying to borrow and improvise upon certain ideas from his breakthrough film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988).

While the comparisons between Hitchcock and Almodóvar are endless, one similarity that just cannot be overlooked is their insatiable love for technical mastery. There is a brilliant sequence in Broken Embraces that that underlines the remarkable quality of editing (and technical excellence) in Almodóvar's films. In the very scene, a rotating CD can be seen fading into a cylindrical staircase as the movie's protagonist climbs down the stairs. The scene is highly reminiscent of the editing techniques employed by Hitchcock in one of his early masterpieces: Sabotage (1936).

Overall, Broken Embraces, at best, serves to be a guilty pleasure. Almodóvar's obsession to experiment with his old ideas in trying to embed them into the new ones ends up overloading the film with at least one excessive plot line. The best ways to savor Broken Embraces is to either treat it as a homage to filmmaking or to look upon it as a exercise in style. Regardless of the excesses, Broken Embraces will prove to be a great film viewing experience for Almodóvar fans and also for those who understand and appreciate powerful world cinema. 7/10

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Never too late to look at a painful past and do the right thing
mehmet_kurtkaya13 January 2010
In warm saturated colors and touches of French film noir, Almodovar shows one tragic yet optimistic tale of a blind screenwriter/director who falls in love with his leading actress.

When the end credits began to roll, I was still in the movie not wanting out. Almost childishly unrealistic pure passionate love is attacked by jealous evil passion.

Almodovar being one of the greatest directors of our time always shows love in the most difficult or impossible situations and gets away with it, whether in Todo sobre mi Madre or his masterpiece Habla con Ella.There is no other director who can depict love in such unusual circumstances. He makes the viewer swim in a sea of conflicting emotions while love always trumps any morality. This time it is not moral vs. love, it is unconditional love vs. evil passion and jealous love.

In most of his films there is a character who seems to deal with his own homosexuality, this one is no exception. I believe somehow Almodovar does this as a therapy to find out the roots of his own homosexuality, such as anger towards a mean and despotic father. There was also a misogynistic feel in one sex scene. Still, this is a small side issue. The movie depicts love between a man and a woman.

Los abrazos rotos is distinct from his other movies in that Almodovar deals with social conditions of his characters are forced to do things for money when the government cannot fulfill its duty to its citizens. The businessman owns a big business and is in bed with the same government that denies adequate health care to its citizens. In the film that the blind director makes, the way to riches is through selling drugs.

The movie works on a personal level but may equally be valid at a social level. Extreme tragedies can force us to be blind as it might be too painful to look at reality. We would like to view events as accidents. And we may be forced to change our identity to accommodate changes. However, it is never too late to look at our past and to right any wrongs we can, even when we cannot bring back what we have lost.

Loooking at the past also means looking at the great directors of the past too as this film is about film-making as well.

This movie may not have a perfect script but it certainly works on many levels. It is plain gorgeous, just like bare breasted Penelope Cruz.
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Character inconsistencies
PipAndSqueak30 August 2009
Make no mistake this is a very accomplished film. However, it seems to me there is a significant problem with the first half hour. The characters as portrayed at this point are really wooden and do not ring 'true'. We're effectively being told a back story that seems to have no relevance to the story as it unfolds and ultimately how it concludes. This part could be dropped/cut without too much detriment. Of all of Pedro A's films this is the one that provides the most unexpected laughs. Oh yes please, I'd like to see that girl and the suitcase film - it looks great fun. Penelope Cruz is absolutely stunning - even when she is doing the bad acting routine she gets it spot on. Brilliant. She deserves far more recognition for her acting skills than she gets.
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Almodovar growing up?
stensson30 August 2009
His movies have always been a chaos. Both a controlled and uncontrolled one. I am among those who have liked them that way, but maybe Almodovar has calmed down now.

This is about the blind director, who is still a womanizer. He gets a visitor and remembers what happened 15 years ago, during one of his film productions. There was this strange 14-year-old, annoying everybody with his film camera making a documentary. Now the past is present again.

And many things are brought to the surface, but it's done in a rather conventional way for two very entertaining hours. I like Almodovar also in this adult shape.
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Was anyone else confused?
sunznc3 January 2010
Let me start by saying that I am a Pedro Almadovar fan. I've seen all his films with exception of one and I plan on seeing that film soon. This film seemed confusing to me in the beginning. The film has small flashbacks that become longer as the film progresses. The last flashback seemed to be the longest and gave the most information. The lead male character is a director and as the romantic part of his life took off he was also in the midst of filming. The film he is making is an homage to a previous Pedro Almadovar film with a different title. For fans of Pedro you recognize the film immediately.

This film is well acted and has interesting characters however, something is missing. It didn't seem as coherent as most of Pedro's films. Also, this film is sad. It doesn't have the madcap shenanigans that you see in some of Pedro's films.

I saw this with one other person and his initial response was "what a depressing film".

Sometimes Pedro's films grow on me and I watch them over & over. That might happen with this but it doesn't look like it will be one of my favorites. In fact, this was a big disappointment.
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