I saw Broken Embraces in May when I was at the Cannes Film Festival and absolutely loved it. Any Almodovar fan will absolutely love Broken Embraces. However, if you have only seen his more recent and best known works (Volver, Talk to Her, All About My Mother), then this probably is not the ideal Almodovar film for you.
I saw two competition films today, Los Abrazos Rotos (dir. Almodovar) and Vincere (dir. Marco Bellocchio).
Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces) is Spanish directors 17th feature film. It stars Penelope Cruz and Lluis Homer. Homer plays Mateo, a film director who was blinded in a car accident 14 years ago. Cruz plays his lover Lena. Like Bad Education and Talk to Her, the film is a puzzle. It is also reminiscent of Almodovar’s 1988 classic Woman on a Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, often recreating scenes from film with Lena’s character performing the role of Pena. It’s a great film, so check it out when you can.
Vincere, however, is another story. I walked out after an hour and a half. The biopic tells the story of Mussolini’s first wife, Ida Dalser, played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno. Dalser married Mussolini in 1914 but the Italian dictator denied their marriage and son. She spent much of her life confined in asylums. The film does not do this compelling story justice. It is poorly constructed with too much emphasis on found footage. It does not concretely establish the foundation of the relationship, making Ida an unsympathetic character. All in all, not worth the 30 minute wait in the rush line.
Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar posed together on the April cover of Vanity Fair. This magazine cover is apart of their promotional tour for Almodovar’s latest film, Broken Embraces, which was released in Spain last week.
This year in Spanish cinema, Pedro Almodovar is the new black.
Oscar-winning director Almodovar’s latest film Broken Embraces drops his distinctive comic melodrama for the best tradition of “film noir,” the dark and stylish film genre used in many crime dramas.
Set for release on March 18 in Spain and in the rest of Europe in May, the film stars recent Oscar winner Penelope Cruz in the role of a tragedy-dogged aspiring actress.
“The film noir genre is one of my favorites,” Almodovar told reporters at a screening of the film on Friday. “The fact this film was really “black” was what was very satisfying.”
Broken Embraces centers on a quartet of characters in the movie business whose lives are interwoven in a torrid tale of love, power, secrecy, betrayal and vengeance. There is the actress Lena (Cruz), script writer and director Mateo, film producer Judith and unscrupulous financier Ernesto.
The dark and stylish cinematography recalls classic Hollywood thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s, including one scene where Lena’s jealous lover pushes her down a long, winding staircase, evoking a similar scene in Henry Hathaway’s The Kiss of Death.
Almodovar described Broken Embraces — his 17th film and with the highest budget yet of 11 million euros ($14.16 million) — as “the story of my \love for the cinema.”
Spain’s most famous director is known for melodramatic tragedy mixed with frenetic comedy in films like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!. He won the Oscar for screenwriting Talk to Her, about two men who form an unlikely bond when both their girlfriends are in comas, and he has only flirted with film noir style in earlier films, such as Trembling Flesh.
Broken Embraces marks the fourth collaboration between Almodovar and Cruz, who last month won the Oscar for best supporting actress in a role as an eccentric Spanish painter in Woody Allen’s Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.
Cruz was effusive in her praise of Almodovar. “I’ve been obsessed with his films since I was a youngster,” she said, adding that if she were told she could only work with one director for the rest of her life it would be “without doubt” Almodovar.
I am taking a seminar on Pedro Almodovar’s films this semester so I will be beyond excited if Broken Embraces does indeed show at Cannes.