Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Lluís
Homar, Blanca Portillo, José Luis Gómez, Rubén
Ochandiano, Tamar Novas, Ángela Molina
RunTime: 2 hrs 7 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes And Drug References)
Official Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/brokenembraces/
Opening Day: 13 May 2010
A man writes, lives and loves in darkness. Fourteen years
before, he was in a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote.
In the accident, he didn’t lose only his sight, he also
lost Lena, the love of his life.
man uses two names: Harry Caine, a playful pseudonym with
which he signs his literary works, stories and scripts, and
Mateo Blanco, his real name, with which he lives and signs
the film he directs. After the accident, Mateo Blanco reduces
himself to his pseudonym, Harry Caine. If he can’t direct
films he can only survive with the idea that Mateo Blanco
died on Lanzarote with his beloved Lena.
the present day, Harry Caine lives thanks to the scripts he
writes and to the help he gets from his faithful former production
manager, Judit García, and from Diego, her son, his
secretary, typist and guide.
Since he decided to live and tell stories, Harry is an active,
attractive blind man who has developed all his other senses
in order to enjoy life, on a basis of irony and self-induced
amnesia. He has erased from his biography any trace of his
first identity, Mateo Blanco.
One night Diego has an accident and Harry takes care of him
(his mother, Judit, is out of Madrid and they decide not to
tell her anything so as not to alarm her). During the first
nights of his convalescence, Diego asks him about the time
when he answered to the name of Mateo Blanco, after a moment
of astonishment Harry can’t refuse and he tells Diego
what happened fourteen years before with the idea of entertaining
him, just as a father tells his little child a story so that
he’ll fall asleep.
story of Mateo, Lena, Judit and Ernesto Martel is a story
of “amour fou”, dominated by fatality, jealously,
the abuse of power, treachery and a guilt complex. A moving
and terrible story, the most expressive image of which is
the photo of two lovers embracing, torn into a thousand pieces.
It'll be a folly to try and pigeon-hole this rich drama by the Spanish directing maestro Pedro Almodovar, because while it is sprawling in its narrative that takes on a multitude of characters across two different timelines and a film within a film, there's enough yarn spun through quick stories that makes this an absolute delight for fans of the storyteller to sit through as he weaves complexities so effortlessly that it'll keep you engaged right up until the final frame.
Reuniting with the Spanish screen goddess Penelope Cruz, Almodovar's story deals with a storyteller/director whom we are introduced to as Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) a blind scriptwriter who was once the famed director Mateo Blanco before he lost his sight. Living now with his caretaker/agent Judit (Blanca Portillo) and her son Diego (Tamar Novas), the death of a tycoon financier Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez) brings back the memories of aspiring actress Lena (Cruz), the mistress of Ernesto and with whom Mateo has an affair with during the production of his last film "Girls and Suitcases", funded by Ernesto no less.
That's just the setting of the premise, as we delve further into their relationships, especially when Ernesto happens to be the jealously possessive old man who will stop at nothing to keep Lena under his control, even dispatching his son (Ruben Ochandiano) to keep tabs during production through the guise of making the behind the scenes documentary, from which he engaged a lip reader to provide interpret just exactly what is whispered between the lovebirds. And who knows that Ernesto Jr has the hots for the director Mateo himself, thus setting up his own agenda for wanting to be on the production set.
Confused already? Don't be, as the film is bursting with ideas befitting that of a synopsis of films that will make you appreciate it a lot more, an angle from which personally I had enjoyed the film. It's akin to a filmmaker's film, where you can detect the sheer joy at coming up with original story concepts, and sharing that with a friend, or an audience, ranging from a vampire working at a blood donation centre, to vengeful ones like how the character Ray X narrates his story about the dad from hell. And I particularly liked the latter as it provided that missing piece of the narrative that we don't get to see, yet hear enough to allow us to connect the dots. The importance of editing too gets a leg up in the film, as it reminds us of how crucial this near-final stage of the filmmaking process can be to make or break a production, doing justice or injustice to the hard work put in by the rest of the cast and crew.
And what is an Almodovar film without the colourful multi-dimensional characters he creates from his imagination, brought to life by wonderful actors that breathe plenty of soul into them. Yes you may think that it's an elaborate soap opera piece that played in part like a mystery - and my, are there so many secrets stashed away and revealed only in due course - but it is the delivery of superb performances all round that keeps you rooted in wanting to know more, coupled with the very rich production sets and colours that presents a visual feast.
Like an artist given a broad blank canvas to work a masterpiece on, Broken Embraces is the end product that encompasses so much in two hours, that it enthralls you enough here, and plants that seed to want to check out the other Almodovar works if you haven't already done so.
(Embrace this Almodovar film)
Review by Stefan Shih