Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not A Review "Broken Embraces" by Pedro Almodovar.

This past weekend I had a chance to catch Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" (Los abrazos rotos). It is certainly not his best film, but I still enjoyed it. It did not have the emotionally depth like "Volver" but it is a layered movie, with all the Almodovar flourishes that we know him now for.. the rich vibrant colors, strong, complex female characters, sex and sensuality, a plot where most of the pivotal events of the story happen in the middle, the beginning has the consequences and a resolution of sorts at the end. And of course it has Penelope Cruz. And I have seen a few Almodovar movies, so I was able to spot other regulars like Lola Duenas and Blanca Portillo.
So what is the movie about..
A man survives a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote. In that accident, he loses his sight, and also Lena(Penelope Cruz), the woman he loves so dearly. That man is now Harry Caine, a with which he signs his stories and scripts. But his real name is Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar), and he used to be a film director. But after the accident only Harry Caine lives, in a self induced amnesia and denial of what was before.
He survives thanks to the scripts that he writes, with the help of his production manager, Judit Garcia (Blanca Portillo), and her son Diego.
Before a casual sexual encounter with a woman who helps him cross the street he finds out about someone from his past who has died, Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez).
One night Diego has an accident and as Harry takes care of him with his mother being away. Diego asks him about the past, and the story of Mateo tumbles out.
Lena who harbors aspirations to be an actress is the mistress of this Martel, a rich, powerful financier. She meets the then Mateo during a film audition and sparks fly soon after Lena is offered a role in a film to be financed by Ernesto. The suspicious Ernesto has his gay son document the making of this film and hires a lip reader to decipher what Mateo and Lena are talking about.
The story of Mateo, Lena, Judit and Ernesto Martel is told with the elements common to a film noir.. those of jealousy, obsession, power, betrayal and guilt. Like other Almodovar films, this one is layered and one can watch the emotional layers get peeled as the story unfolds.
I liked the clarity and sharpness of the images, not in the literal sense, but in the way objects in the movie stood out, whether it was the furniture, the art on the walls, the colors (red seemed to dominate)..in complete opposition to the muddled emotional selves of the characters.
Could not help but also notice the art on the walls of Martel's mansion, the paintings of guns including one showing a rifle lowered, leveled and raised.. phallic symbolism? Power? For as powerful as Martel was, he was utterly powerless, completely captive to Lena, willing to go to tremendous lengths to keep her.
I have to try to catch some of Almodovar's earlier movies, just to see if the male characters always paled in comparison to the females. The camera here certainly loves Cruz, and her character here compared to the mother she played in Volver, is one which is more on an edge.
While I did not think this was one of Almodovar's better movies, it certainly held my attention.
Trailer below..