Sunday, December 27, 2009
Broken Embraces: Almodóvar's Mature Mastery
Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) is vintage Pedro Almodóvar.
It’s Pedro’s homage to film-making. It features a movie within the movie, a documentary about the making of the movie and a sequel. Moreover, there is a first release of ‘Girls and Suitcases’ plus a director’s cut.
Almodovar is not just one of the world’s foremost auteurs. His works virtually constitute a genre of their own. This venture has all his melodramatic trademarks. Love, jealousy, betrayal and tragedy. A disabled protagonist who has buried his former self. A menacing father and an obsessed gay son who battles his father’s rejection. A very vulnerable femme fatale. A lip reader. A mysterious past. Startling revelations. Several key incidents involve hospitals, which often play a pivotal role in his films. There is even a coma.
This story has a dual time frame. 1994 concerns the shooting of ‘Girls and Suitcases’ and the inevitable love triangle that develops between the producer Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez), his mistress and female lead Lena (Penélope Cruz) and the director Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar). Almodóvar sends up his earlier films such as Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and Kika mimicking all their colour and zany style. He even uses some of his long serving actors in supporting roles in Suitcases.
2008 brings catharsis for the sole surviving member. Harry Caine, formerly film director Mateo Blanco, confronts his past as he recounts the disastrous events of 1994 to his assistant Diego (Tamar Novas) whose mother Judit (Blanca Portillo) had been his production assistant and is now his agent.
It’s hard to fault the cast who give polished, professional performances. Pedro seems to bring out the best in Penélope Cruz by aiming for restraint rather than hysterics. In fact the whole movie shows a marked maturity with masterly control of its edgy suspense and humour.
This is arguably one of, if not the best Almodóvar to date.