Thursday, 25 August 2011

Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar, 2009)

Penélope Cruz and Lluís Homar
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenwriter: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo, Tamar Novas, Rubén Ochandiano, José Luis Gómez, Ángela Molina.
Synopsis: Told in flashback, as a man reminisces about meeting the love of his life, Broken Embraces tells the story of the production of a film fourteen years earlier, the love affair between the director and the lead actress, and the punishments inflicted on the actress by her financier husband. The film was hacked to pieces under the financier's influence, but a greater tragedy than bad reviews awaited the couple...

I was initially disappointed when I saw this film, at least in part because I’d hyped it up in my own mind (I seriously need to calm down about La piel que habito, or it’ll happen again). My reaction after my first viewing was that it unravels, or deflates, about three-quarters of the way through when Judit (Portillo), has to fill in the blanks to what we have seen in flashback as Mateo / Harry (Homar) recounted the story of his last film as a director to Diego (Novas). I felt that too much exposition was done in that one scene and it also seemed jarring that we were being told rather shown what happened. But watching it again now, that scene does not seem as jarring, although I do still think that the film just kind of tails off at the end. However, even with those ‘doubts’ in mind, the film is still a powerful and heartfelt meditation on cinema and filmmaking; the film stands as a love letter to cinema, and to his (then) current muse, Penélope Cruz. The scenes where Mateo meets Lena (Cruz) for the first time and then sets about turning her into his lead actress clearly demonstrate why Cruz is a star -the camera loves her as much as Pedro does. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the ‘deflation’ (from my perspective) happens after Lena (Cruz) has left the narrative –Cruz’s absence is palpable, and although that fits with the desolation that Mateo is initially left with, to me it made the film feel a bit unbalanced (even though we see her performance in Chicas y maletas (the film within the film) at the end of the film).