Review by Jack Foley
PEDRO Almodovar has described Broken Embraces as the most complex film of his career. It’s easy to see why.
The film takes the form of a love letter to cinema, as well as a Hitchockian-style thriller, and a tragic love story all rolled into one.
It also takes place in two time periodss and features a film within a film that nods to Almodovar’s own back catalogue.
And maybe for these reasons, the film fails to make as immediate an impression as some of his work (such as Volver or Talk To Her), or leave as lasting a memory.
The film is told from the perspective of blind writer Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), also the film director Mateo Blanco, as he recalls the tragedy that persuaded him to drop his real-life identity in favour of permanently assuming his alter ego’s.
As Harry recalls the fateful love triangle that existed between himself, screen siren Lena (Penelope Cruz) and a crooked financier (Jose Luis Gomez), his own young assistant Diego (Tamar Novas) persuades him to revisit the film that ended his career with a view to repairing the problems with it.
Although typically well acted and beautifully shot, the film requires a lot of patience from the viewer to keep up with and occasionally feels too much like a flight of directorial fancy for its own good.
Almodovar makes no attempt to mask the fact that Broken Embraces is as much an homage to the power of cinema, as it is a credible human story. As such, it’s occasionally more impressionistic than emotionally authentic.
Nevertheless, film fans should embrace the director’s obvious knowledge for the conventions of cinema, while enjoying a typically charming (and sexy) performance from his muse, Penelope Cruz.
Lluis Homar’s Harry Caine is also an intriguing character to be around, and his secrets are worth unlocking.
Broken Embraces is therefore an intriguing film that succeeds in spite of its flaws. Almodovar’s longest serving fans will probably get the most out of it (particularly in the way that it references Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), but there’s still plenty on offer for newcomers as well.
In Spanish, with subtitles
Running time: 2hrs 7mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 1, 2010