BROKEN EMBRACES - dir. by Pedro Almodovar

Ma's View

Christmas and New Year have intervened since we saw "Broken Embraces" directed by Pedro Almodovar and starring Penelope Cruz.  This movie is a melodrama in the old-fashioned sense but the characters, although larger than life, manage to escape being stereotypical and the actors do a superb job.  As for the plot, there is the wicked aging rich guy who is takes advantage of the beautiful vulnerable heroine whose father is dying of cancer; there is the hero who is blinded in the tragic accident which takes the life of his beloved and who subsequently suppresses that identity, preferring to live and write under his "nom de plume"; there is the disaffected son and the jilted lover, both seeking revenge, and then there is the secret of the parentage of one character.  So complex and involved does it become that you might be tempted (as I was) to say "That's just silly!"   Certainly this movie does not live up to the passion and tragedy of "All about my Mother", one of Aldovar's earlier films.

Nevertheless Penelope Cruz performs her role very well indeed - both as the central character of this tragic story and as  the aspiring young actress who is every bit as alluring and coquettish as Audrey Hepburn for whom she was clearly groomed to look alike.  The supporting cast is very strong all round, particularly Lluis Homa as the blinded film director and Blanca Portilla as his agent.

The really interesting aspect of the film for me was what is revealed about how film-making and acting have changed; this is achieved through the device of the 'film within the film' and the shots from older films that the characters watch.  The style of acting and the structure seem very contrived and transparent compared to the studied naturalness of some of today's movies.

Score:  6/10

Pepe's View

Pedro Almodovar's latest film is really a disappointment - I was looking forward to watching  "Broken Embraces"  with fond memories of "All About My Mother" still in mind.  Broken Embraces is melodramatic, verging on ridiculous at times with stand out performances from, as usual, Penelope Cruz and Lluis Homa as the blind love struck lover who pines after his lost love (Cruz).  Through a series of flashbacks we see the story unfold of the hero's life before the accident that took his sight and come to understand the sense of loss he felt for the love of his life.

Some of the camera work is quite beautiful without being outstanding and the screenplay again displays some glimpses of brilliance but mostly wallows in melodrama.  The obvious references to old films of a similar genre in the way some of the shots are framed and in some of the dialogue shows a touch of class but would be lost on an audience (like me for the most part) who could see or remember similar scenes from old movies without knowing exactly which ones.

Broken Embraces is a pleasant enough 2 hrs in the air conditioned theatre ( and this summer we need all the excuses to sit in air con we can get) without challenging or provoking much thought.  That we did not spend our usual time discussing all the aspects of this film on the way home is an indication of its impact.  One to disappear from our memories without trace.

Score:  6/10

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