Pedro Almodovar went from being the height of daring and sexy art house cinema to an Oscar favorite and old hand. As Noah Cross would say like whores and ugly buildings Almodovar has been around long enough to be respectable. He has won his foreign film for All About My Mother, Talk to Her netted him an Oscar for his screenplay, and Penelope Cruz has won one for her acting (albeit for her work in a Woody Allen film – regardless, it was a career win). Their relationship has run over four movies, so it’s not exactly a De Niro/Scorsese type relationship, but there’s obviously chemistry there. In Broken Embraces the two reunite to tell the story of a mistress (Cruz) and a writer/director (Lluis Homar) and their tragic love story. My review of Broken Embraces after the jump.
Almodovar has a great love for Douglas Sirkian melodrama and Alfred Hitchcock, and here he melds the two for a flashback narrative. Homar’s Harry Caine is a blind man with a way with the ladies even though sightless. The film opens with him seducing a young woman who helps him cross the street. But love is a fleeting thing for him now. He spends his time working on screenplays and a young man named Ray X (Rubén Ochandiano) hopes to collaborate with him. Lena (Cruz) is dealing with a sick father, and that’s how her old lover Ernesto (Jose Luiz Gomez) re-enters her life. But then the film details how Harry Caine became blind. He was once a film director, and she was an aspiring actress. Ernesto was a money man, and to make her dreams come true he financed their movie, but wouldn’t do so without having his son there to film their interactions. But like a lot of director/actress relationships, there’s becomes sexual, which leads to their downfall.
Though the narrative is engaging enough, what makes any Almodovar film so great is the craft, and here he’s working with actors at the top of their game, and a fun narrative that pays homage a bit to his heroes, but also one that suggests a mini-autobiography, as the film within the film suggests early Almodovar. The text of the film is interesting enough, but the ideas of the film, and what Almodovar is playing with take it to the next level. That said, though it’s easy to fall in love with and enjoy digesting, it’s also a light ride, one of his minor works that manages to be major because it’s a great director behind it. This is a film in love with film, and that’s enough.
Sony Pictures Classics presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HDMA 5.1 in the original Spanish with English subtitles. Supplements include the short film “The Cannibalistic Councilor” (8 min.), and three Deleted scenes (12 min.). “Pedro Directs Penelope” (6 min.) shows that Almodovar will feed Cruz her performance as the scene goes on, and “On the Red Carpet: The New York Film Festival Closing Night” (3 min.) and “Variety Q&A with Penelope Cruz” (6 min.) offer post-release platitudes. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included.