Hadrian Miguel, Lifestyle & Beauty Director
One of the best things about being a writer, participant, and spectator of the world is that I love, love, love living in major cities for the access to events, shows, music, and celebrities way in advance before the rest of the country, especially to check out films…well that, and also having good friends in high places and in international markets!
So this past weekend, I had the privilege of previewing Spain’s greatest gift to the cinematic world, Pedro Almodóvar, and his new movie Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos) starring Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo, Tamar Novas, Lola Dueñas, and José Luis Gómez.
In Broken Embraces, Almodóvar uses a film noir style of cinema told in flashback. The story flip flops through time in the past and present, and centers on a blind writer & director (Lluís Homar) with dual identities (Harry Caine/Mateo Blanco) who tries to deal with life post-car crash that cost him both his eyesight and his love (Penélope Cruz).
In the past, Penélope Cruz plays Lena Rivas, a receptionist/actress/mistress whose life changes when she is cast in a film called “Chicas y Maletas” and falls for its writer/director. José Luis Gómez (last seen in Milos Forman’s Goya’s Ghost) has a breakthrough part in the movie and almost steals the show as Ernesto Martel, Lena’s wealthy, jealous, conniving, and ruthless financier boyfriend.
Penélope Cruz as Lena shooting "Chica y Maletas", the film within the film. All photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
In the present day, Harry exists and manages life with the help of his trusted, former assistant, Judit (played brilliantly by Blanca Portillo), and her son Diego (Tamar Novas). The story revolves mainly around Harry, Lena, Judit and Ernesto and their super-telenovela version of sex, lies, and videotape. A very condensed one line summary of the story is that the film tries to reconcile the events of the early 1990′s with that of present day. While I am not going to spoil it for you with a play by play on what happens, just go see it!
A scene from Broken Embraces with Penélope Cruz as Lena.
This is Almodóvar’s 4th film with Penélope Cruz. They first worked together on 1997′s Live Flesh, and then in 1999′s All About My Mother, which won a best foreign film Oscar award. Almodóvar then directed her to a best actress Oscar nomination for 2006′s Volver, which is one of my recent personal faves of Almodóvar with Penélope films. In Broken Embraces, she is captivating and glimmers with grace, intensity, sexiness, and feeling, so much so that I am eager to see what she does in the upcoming December film release of Nine by Rob Marshall, the musical inspired by Frederico Fellini’s autobiographical film 8½. Penélope will have two movies out with a nationwide release at Christmas just in time for another Oscar consideration…perhaps.
The movie soundtrack is excellent too with a moody score by Alberto Iglesias and includes Uffie (“Robot Oeuf”), Cat Power (“Werewolf”), Miguel Poveda, and Can (“Vitamin C”). Albert Iglesias’ music score adds some aural textures that goes hand in hand with Almodóvar’s visuals.
Pedro Almovódar body of work never ceases to amaze me, move me, and make me laugh or think, and while Broken Embraces is his 17th feature film, it’s right up there with his best even though it reexamines some of his familiar ideas and themes like a film within a film, and the usual twist and turns of love, lies, obsession, treachery, guilt, jealousy, revenge and secrets…and quite honestly, that’s my kind of mixed bag of tricks and makes Broken Embraces super juicy and rich with drama and surprises, the kind I like to watch and avoid in real life!
Broken Embraces is now playing in New York and then opens in Los Angeles on Friday, December 11th. It will open nationwide in the U.S. and Canada on December 25th. It’s in Spanish with English subtitles.