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Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos) (4 stars)

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Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos)

New work from Pedro Almodóvar

Since moving into his mature period of filmmaking Pedro Almodóvar’s films have benefited from both an increasingly dramatic emotional impact and an ever more cinematic sensibility. His latest boasts a little less of the former than its predecessors, but it’s by far and away the auteur’s most self-referential love letter to cinema yet.

It’s the story of a ménage-a-quatre between filmmaker Harry (Lluís Homar), his leading lady Lena (Penelope Cruz), her sugar daddy Ernesto (José Luis Gómez), and Harry’s production manager Judit (Blanca Portillo). This emotionally and narrative-wise labyrinthine tale of amour fou unfolds largely in flashback as Harry, now old, blind and single, recounts his sorry story to Judit’s son, who assists the once great filmmaker with his hackwork as a script doctor.

From the opening credit sequence shot, Broken Embraces announces itself as a film about films and the people who make them. The plot recalls any number of American film noirs, nominal femme fatale Lena is styled to look like Audrey Hepburn from Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, there’s an explicit homage to Michael Powell’s own meta-movie Peeping Tom and a clip from Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia appears on a television set at a key moment. And then there’s Almodóvar re-creating whole sequences from his breakthrough film Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown, here used as the film-within-a-film. Broken Embraces is ultra-stylish and loaded with thematic weight.

Selected release from Fri 28 Aug. (15) 128min.

Broken Embraces

  • 4 stars
  • 2009
  • Spain
  • 128 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
  • Written by: Pedro Almodóvar
  • Cast: Penélope Cruz, Blanca Portillo, Lluís Homar, Lola Dueñas, Ángela Molina, Rossy de Palma

The auteur's most self-referential love letter to cinema yet presents the story of a ménage-a-quatre between filmmaker Harry (Homar), leading lady Lena (Cruz), her sugar daddy Ernesto (José Luis Gómez), and Harry's production manager Judit (Portillo). This labyrinthine tale of amour fou unfolds largely in flashback as…

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