Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Broken Embraces," Almodovar-ian Thoughts

Walking out of “Broken Embraces” (Los Abrazos Rotos) last week, I was
rambling, per usual, about the movie’s merits and demerits compared to director Pedro Almodovar's
the other films. As we strolled down
Houston St. from Sunshine Cinema, I asked my old friend what he’d
thought of the movie, relinquishing my death-grip on the conversation.
He sort of shrugged his shoulders, cocked his head, and said: “Eh, his
films all run together to me.”

While my heart palpitated a bit, thinking of the intricacies of each
and every one of Almodovar's films
, how he's a filmmaker's Film Man –
a film student who's never grown up – I took a deep breath and said,
“Yeah, I can see that.” Sure, I could tell you the ins and outs of
“Talk to Her,” “All About My Mother,” and, lately, “Volver” – but
there's an elemental sameness to all Almodovar films that make them
unwittingly Almodovar without need for credit recognition. Every
character has a twisted, twisted back-story – and they all tie
themselves seamlessly together in a beautifully-shot sequence of
events, somewhere down the line.

That said, there've been some Almodovar stand-out scenes that
couldn't erase themselves from my memory, were they to be Magic
Ink-erasable. I'll never forget the images and themes from “The Bad
Education” (La Mala Educacion),
with one of my old loves, Gael Garcia
– he plays a fledgling actor-cum-transvestite-cum-deceptionist.
Those images and sequences are so engrained in my warbled movie memory
that I'll never lose them – and I'll never forget making many a soul
watch that film.

So, back to “Embraces.” Penelope Cruz plays the gorgeous protagonist lady;
she's the star in Almodovar's immediate film that we're watching, as well as his film
within-the-film – he shoots a comedy within an atypical drama. We
learn early on that her father's sick, she's an assistant at a huge
corporation—which is run by an ineptly ruthless CEO-type (aren't they
all?)—and she's got to make the all-too-rough (not) decision whether
to sell her beautiful self to the sexually voracious old man, or let
her Pops die in the hands of an unsympathetic hospital.
Enter the dreamy man protagonist (who's been involved in the story as
a narrative from minute 1)
, an oft-used Almodovar standby, Lluis Homar
(of “La Mala Educacion”) – a dreamy director who's fallen for Cruz's
beguiling looks and clutchable soul.
Well, no point in going on with the narrative arc.

It's a great story, fantastic role-playing on both sides (Cruz and
Homar's), yet only a good movie.
It's a great effort, and it's so, SO Almodovar; it's just not told
in the same deft, clever way that he usually spins his tales,
unraveling them layer by layer till we're left with just the most
brute forms of humans—which he's so good at. This feels like he
started in the middle of opening a can of worms, got nervous and made
sure he closed the can back up.

It's good, but not great.

Still worth a see.

Broken Embraces trailer:

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