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Review of ‘Broken Embraces’

Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz work together again in a new melodrama in their career.

    The Wind Toy by César Manrique, located in the Tahíche roundabout (Lanzarote), presides over the key crossroads in the complicated narrative labyrinth of ‘Los abrazos rotos’: it is not unwise to consider that Almodóvar may have seen in sculpture the perfect symbol of that cosmology of affections , obsessions, doomed loves, betrayals and other orbital passions that shape his film. The distance that separates Manrique’s creation from Almodóvar’s latest film may also serve to explain what separates the resounding, unappealable work that ‘Los abrazos rotos’ could have been from the magnetic, ambitious but too digressive and unbalanced film that has ended being. Manrique’s sculpture could be said to be the result of a subtractive process that culminates in a choreography of essential forms in perpetual (and variable) dialogue with the landscape.

    ‘Los abrazos rotos’, for its part, is an extreme manifestation of what could be called the Almodovarian Baroque – a concept that perhaps found its fullness in ‘Hable con ella’ and ‘La mala education’-, a game of masks, times, narrative levels and aesthetic registers that, from the first to the last frame, have the identity of its creator engraved on fire, but under which the force of another possible film runs, much lighter in form, less in love with its secondary roads and its plot detours, more inflexible when deciding what kind of speech it wants to be.

    I will love you always… Rossellini

    The problem with Broken Embraces is that Almodóvar is already, definitely, another director than the one who signed ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’, but, in a certain sense, he refuses to accept it. Or, put another way, ‘Los abrazos rotos’ is such a generous film, so committed to satisfying all Almodovarian audiences –those who have decided to embark on the complex journey proposed by the last stretch of his career and those who continue to yearn for its old records – that its painful central story ends up subjected to too many centrifugal forces. It is not convenient to reveal the plot, but the viewer will find it easy to detect where is the ending that would have finished off this story at the height of one of its explicit references: ‘I will always love you’, by Rossellini. All in all, ‘Los abrazos rotos’ contains some of the most powerful scenes of his filmography (the confession/dubbing of Penélope’s character) and provides the viewer with one of those baths of intensity that no other Spanish filmmaker seems willing to guarantee.

    The best: His romantic fatalism.

    The worst: His excess narrative baggage.

    For almodovarians in all its variants


    Address: Pedro Almodovar Distribution: Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo, Tamar Novas, José Luis Gómez, Rubén Ochandiano, Ángela Molina, Lola Dueñas, Asier Etxeandía, Carmen Machi, Kiti Manver, Rossy de Palma, Chus Lampreave Original title: Broken Embraces Country: Spain Year: 2008 Release date: 03-18-2009 Gender: Drama Screenplay: Pedro Almodovar Duration: 125 minutes

    Synopsis: In 1994, Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar) is a film director who, in a tragic accident, loses his sight and the best of his existence. From the darkness and from his voluntary amnesia, Mateo begins a new life in which the past does not fit. The link between today and yesterday is Judith García (Blanca Portillo), his former production director. But memory is relentless and, 14 years later, loves (Lena/Penélope Cruz), betrayals and fatality prevail over oblivion.

    Source: Fotogramas

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