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September 7, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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Broken Embraces

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Films about directors always strike a chord with me. There is something compelling about watching a film about a filmmaker. The struggles of the cinematic artist laid bare in front of you. Broken Embraces serves as a cautionary tale to all filmmakers. Do not get involved with your leading lady. Especially if she is the producer’s mistress. And his creepy gay son is obsessed with her and follows her everywhere. For anyone who knows Almodóvar’s work these elements of the plot seem surprisingly plausible, and Broken Embraces is his most moving and heartfelt work to date.

Broken Embraces opens in contemporary Madrid with aging blind filmmaker Harry Caine (Homar) working as a script doctor. He begins to tell the tale of the production of his final film, Girls and Suitcases, and the romance he had with Lena (Cruz). The film deals with layers of reality, of the fictional and the real, and shifts effortlessly between the past and present. What works so well in Embraces is Almodóvar’s effortless manipulation of cinematic techniques to tell a story about cinema.

Penelope Cruz has never looked better. The red dresses she wears throughout the film exude her sexuality and vulnerability. There’s a moment where she poses as Audrey Hepburn, which is magical for anyone who loves cinema. The emotionally volatile character is tempered with a rare humanity and her comic scenes in the film within a film show her incredible range. Homar’s Harry Caine is incredibly upbeat for a filmmaker who lost his sight. There’s a beautiful moment where he asks to hear Jeanne Moreau’s voice, showing the power cinema still has over him.

Rodrigo Prieto’s masterful cinematography elevates the look of Embraces above Almodóvar’s earlier work through his mobile camera and the nuances of his lighting. A bedroom scene that consists of light passing across white sheets is a testament to Prieto’s skill. The bright colours and texture which define Almodóvar’s work are still present but seem more seamlessly incorporated into the narrative than they have in the past.

Broken Embraces is a film for people who love cinema. It is delightful to look at and a heartbreaking story of love, loss, and the power of cinema. The collaboration between Almodóvar and Cruz keeps getting stronger, and hopefully they continue producing such upbeat, life-affirming work. Broken Embraces is the best film I’ve seen this year.

Broken Embraces
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
With Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar

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