Saturday, 31 December 2011

Broken Embraces (2009) @ Los Abrazos Rotos

At a glance:
In Abrazos Rotos, blind Spanish scribe Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar, older priest in La Mala Educación 2004) starts referrin to himself as Harry Caine after a tragic accident 14 years ago that changed his life forever. Through flashbacks, we learn that he wasn’t always blind, and that he was once in love with a beautifully arrestin woman he turned into an actress - Lena (Penélope Cruz) – but she was unfortunately involved with a powerful but jealous man named Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez).
Bad news on the doorstep:
Pedro Almodóvar's oeuvre reads like a catalogue of must-watch movies for any fan of modern European cinema, however it’s not surprisin that many critics who admire the Spanish maestro are now the same people who feel that he has not reinvented himself or offered anything refreshin in recent years. Los Abrazos Rotos is fuel to this fire of discontent. It’s surprising how Almodovar films still continue to warrant maximum attention (this one was in contention for the Palme d’Or at Cannes) when he once again cast his regulars (Penélope Cruz, Ángela Molina and Lola Dueñas among others) in yet another decidedly dark, rich, contextual drama with plenty of repressed emotions and various other unsavoury aspects of adult life related to damaged youth. Obviously it’s what he’s comfortable doin (and doin well at) but watchin an Almodovar film can turn into an exercise in tedium if this is all we’re gonna get.
Perennial wonderment:
It's a mazy exploration with themes of guilt, abandonment, envy and foiled ambition; and for once, the awkward English title Broken Embraces does mean somethin. However, while the movie largely works as a feature film, it is beset on all sides by a self-referential production that begs the question – are Almodóvar films really that great?
Reminds me of:
Volver (2006) and Talk To Her (2002).
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
The movie seems to ride off his magnificent presence and is held together by his powerful obsession with the technically gorgeous. There is rich detail and colour in every frame and the picture is backed by a suitably sombre music as well. As Cat Power’s Werewolf plays to underscore a scene about a doomed relationship (same song for Jessica Biel’s waxy strip sequence in Powder Blue, 2009), we can attest to Almodóvar’s absorbin brilliance in packagin his cast around neat little tales with wonderful layers. It’s just that a man so technically accomplished may need to do more than just being prolific and adequate if he were to really live up to what people expect from him as Spain’s best regarded filmmaker since Luis Buñuel.