Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar, 2009)

08Mar10

Broken Embraces is nothing short of stunning, and I mean to use that word predominantly as it should be: to reference the visual. Almodovar has always had an eye for colour, but never moreso than in his latest effort. Broken Embraces oozes with beauty. Red monopolises every scene as it always has done for Pedro (think Volver), but now purple is prevalent too, and this reflects the darker, perhaps even noirish nature of the film.

It is, primarily, a film about filmmaking, and what a dedication it is. There’s Godard’s Mépris in the shape of a similarly significant car crash; there’s Bunuel, the previous godfather of Spanish cinema, in Penélope’s second life as a call girl, who conveniently uses the pseudonym ‘Severine.’ There’s Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Peeping Tom, with the obsessive big-brother stalking throughout. There’s the divine hairpieces, making Cruz even prettier than ever, as she adopts Marilyn and Audrey-esque looks for the camera. Almodovar even has time to pay homage to his own work, in the shape of Women on a Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film that cemented his now eternal reputation outside of Spain.

All this is woven into a plot that isn’t even slightly detracted from by the loving homages scattered throughout it. In fact, with the exception of Talk to Her, Broken Embraces is arguably Almodovar’s most mature movie yet. He clearly still yearns for youth, but for the first time in his life he has tried to make people do much more than primarily laugh. Broken Embraces aches with abuse and frustration, the former being evoked through the main relationship of Penélope Cruz’s character, Lena, and the latter through the tale of her genuine love for a director, who lives his final years without the gift of sight.

The love between Lena, who becomes an actress, and her director, can’t help but be paralleled to the muse-like bond between Almodovar and Cruz themselves. He clearly adores her, and the film is a testament to her skill as an actress and almost painful beauty as a woman.

Indeed, it has arguably come to the stage where even when Almodovar makes a ‘bad’ film for his impeccably high standards, it’s better than anything else out at the time. But this talk-down isn’t applicable here. Broken is an exceptional film even for Almodovar’s standards, and should be embraced by anyone with a heart and love for cinema, even if the Academy somehow failed to do so.

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