Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos)

Poster
2009
Pedro Almodovar

8/10 (Annoying red herring, incoherence)

Here is a good, accessible introduction to the usually-twisted Pedro Almodovar. It is more interesting and better-written than his other recent effort, “Volver,” although Penelope Cruz is perhaps not as compelling in this role as she was in that one.

It is the story of Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), a blind scriptwriter who had been a famous director before a terrible accident. It’s essentially a mystery, as Almodovar slowly uncovers details — mostly in flashback form as Caine talks to his young assistant — as to the circumstances surrounding Caine’s tragic loss, not only of his eyesight but also of his lover Lena Rivas (Cruz).

The entire film is vibrant, with taut scenes, intense acting, and Almodovar’s trademark use of bright colors and creative photography. The soundtrack is well-done too. It feels like a short two hours and overall it is just a solid piece of cinema.

I really liked the film despite a couple of flaws, and something I noticed in “Volver” as well. Almodovar tends to create tension where none need exist. There is a red herring in place throughout most of the film that just kind of leaves you confused at the end when it results in nothing. Then another secret is revealed by Caine’s longtime assistant Judit (the talented Blanca Portillo, also in “Volver”), yet there was no logical reason for her to withhold the information for as long as she did.

These are things that I have to imagine Almodovar does just to be extra-dramatic. In the case of “Volver,” if he hadn’t done it there probably wouldn’t have been enough substance for a film. But here, it was just unnecessary.

Still, the film is very engaging and a good option to make your cinematic repertoire more “worldly.” And Penelope Cruz seems to be quickly becoming one of the best actresses of her generation.

6 January 2011

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