Broken Embraces (2009, dir. Pedro Almodovar)
Starring Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, Ruben Ochandiano, Tamar Novas
Director Pedro Almodovar has never disappointed me and continues that successful streak with his latest picture. There is something captivating about how he calmly lays out the strands of a plot. He does it so masterfully that before you know it, you’re completely absorbed in the story he is telling. With Broken Embraces, Almodovar weaves together his dramatic tones as seen in films like All About My Mother and Talk To Her with noir elements he began using in Bad Education. The result is a masterpiece.
The story begins with blind screenwriter Mateo Blanco, who signs his scripts under the pseudonym Harry Caine. His day to day affairs are looked over by his long time production assistant Judit Garcia and her son, Diego. Into their life comes Ray X, a mysterious director who appears to know something of Mateo’s past. Diego wants to know more and Mateo begins to tell the tale of he and an actress named Lena’s relationship.
Everything about the structure and pace of the film is spot on. Almodovar takes his time before getting to the core story, which is told mostly in an extended flashback, framed by the present day story. I’ve begun to look at the director’s films as having a lot of similarities with Shakespeare’s work from a structural standpoint. The plots are fairly straightforward with a cluster of key characters and flashbacks and framing devices are used frequently. I think by refraining from attempting to over complicate his scripts with too many characters or sub-plots and twists, Almodovar creates very classic films that are going to last for decades to come.