Pedro Almodovar’s latest feature film, Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces) was chosen to launch the 13th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) in October at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Typical of Almodovar’s unique filmmaking style, the wacky drama gracefully and seamlessly glides back and forth between two time lines without ever losing its intrigue.
In Broken Embraces, Almodovar tells the story of a blind writer named Harry Caine, a man with a convoluted and dark past. Thanks to a handful of random events, Caine (played well by Lluis Homar) decides to confront and examine a painful episode from fourteen years previously, when he lost his sight. Back then, he was known by his real name, Mateo Blanco, and was immersed in filming a movie. Engaged in a passionate affair with his leading lady Lena, played by Penelope Cruz, the pair of illicit lovers chafe under the scrutiny of Lena’s older lover, the financier of the movie. The love triangle is rendered awkward by intrusions by the old man’s son as well as Harry’s best friend and longtime personal assistant. When the besotted pair try to escape to a coastal sanctuary, tragedy ensues and Harry’s life is reparably altered.
All this unfolds over the course of two hours, in the typically convoluted storytelling fashion that Almodovar is well known for employing. Here Almodovar effortlessly combines love, lies, tears, melodrama and comedy to excellent effect. Employing dramatic jumps between the past and the present, the story is interwoven with various stories and viewpoints and amounts to a intriguing drama full of twists and turns. Those familiar with the Spaniard filmmaker’s movies will recognize several “in-jokes” and subtle references to previous Almodovar films.
Almodovar also seems to be tapping into the mood of classic neo noir dramas such as Leave Her to Heaven and even hints of Blow Up.
Past and present, self and alter-ego, movie-within-a-movie and movie-about-the-movie-within-a-movie, perception and reality – are all intertwined as Almodovar meditates about the condition of the artist.
Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces) is being released in the US during November and Australia in December, 2009. For more information, go to the official site.
review by Pauline Adamek