- Pedro Almodovar is fascinated by a certainly type of love- a love to the extreme- to the point of madness. He often juxtaposes it with true love- he notes the distinction- but also is quick to remind the viewer that it a thin line. In Broken Embraces, Harry Caine (again for Almodovar- a pseudonym) is a blind writer (again, using a typewriter). The story tracks Harry (alias Mateo Blanco- played by Lluis Homar) when he is a blind writer in the modern day (2008) and when he was known as Mateo as a director who could see in 1992. The 1992 section of the story centers around Lena (an astonishing Penelope Cruz) and her jealous/insane lover Ernesto (Jose Luis Gomez). Lena only ends up entangled with Ernesto to save her father. There is also the story of Ernest’s son out for revenge as a subplot. It is a deliciously tangled web- a great beach read of a film.
- At the 40-minute mark Almodóvar’s camera pongs back and forth between Harry and Diego during their close-up conversation.
- From the late 1980s on, Almodovar has been one of cinema’s finest screenwriters (not to insult his acumen behind the camera at all- he is a splendid visual director) but when one thinks of his writing it is usually connected to these intricate plots, chance encounters over decades—one forgets he can write dialogue like “…the mere presence of that woman disturbed me”- (about Penelope’s Lena)
at the 43-minute mark there is a sublime composition with Lena at Ernest’s house—almost all of Almodóvar’s characters are art aficionados and Ernesto is no different- he has a massive painting of apples behind Lena.
Cruz in her platinum wig in front of the mirror – she is already a star of course in 2009 but if there was ever the “a star is born” moment for her in her career this is it.
The film within the film of Broken Embraces (the one Mateo is working on and Ernesto destroys) is Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (recreation of the set here)- it even has the gazpacho with the pills. In the film it is called “Girls and Suitcases”.
At the 64-minute mark there is a very nice split diopter shot (not a stylistic tool Almodovar uses often) with Ernesto foreground right and Penelope’s Lena in the background in her red dress. It is a strong scene as well- she tells him off as he watches a movie of her- a sort of Peeping Tom (referenced) or Hitchcock voyeur. De Palma sort of makes every other Hitchcock acolyte seem like they are not an acolyte- but Almodóvar assuredly still is.
A high angle medium long shot of the staircase—then at the 67-minute mark …
…directly after that shot- Cruz’s Lena is shot from a close up at a higher angle with the beautifully designed floor pattern serving as the background.
Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (1954) is playing on the television for one of Almodóvar’s trademark sofa compositions at the 80-minute mark.
At the 92-minute mark- the Judit character (Blanca Portillo) in closeup against the vibrant curtains in the background. Almodóvar’s best work includes at least a shot like this for the past twenty years going back to Women on the Verge.
At the 95-minute mark the full frame is a collection of torn up pictures forming a collage.
- From the great Roger- “Broken Embraces is a voluptuary of a film, drunk on primary colors” https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/broken-embraces-2009
- This is Almodóvar’s first film (and to date- only film) working with Rodrigo Prieto (25th Hour, Brokeback Mountain, The Irishman) as his cinematographer.
the dramatic set piece (seemingly straight out of Antonioni’s L’Eclisse) adds just the right note during the fateful night of the accident
towards the end of the film Harry/Mateo freezes on his past love and Almodovar captures that pain magnificently with this composition
- Almodóvar’s protagonists are often writers or directors (here- Mateo/Harry is both). Elevator to the Gallows is mentioned in the text- along with a blurb of Nicolas Ray (color and melodrama) and Fritz Lang. Ernest’s revenge on Mateo is to butcher his film- certainly the worst sin to Almodovar.
- Highly Recommend/ Must See border- leaning Must See