best film: When an actor has worked with the great Pedro Almodovar as much as Penelope Cruz has, this category is going to be pretty solid. Among their collaborations, All About My Mother (1999), Broken Embraces (2009), and Pain and Glory (2019) stand out as the finest (curious that they come out ten years apart exactly – excited to see what 2029 has to offer from the director and actor pairing). All About My Mother borrows large chunks of the narrative (and the title of course) from 1950’s All About Eve. Broken Embraces is definitely Almodóvar’s most underrated work. But it is Pain and Glory that emerges (ever so slightly) as Cruz’s single best film. Almodovar works in melodrama (one of the tops in this genre’s history – like R.W. Fassbinder and Douglas Sirk) – but the autofiction (his word in the film) here pushes this more towards Federico Fellini (critics have mentioned that this is Almodóvar’s 8 ½ and that is an apt description). Some of Almodóvar’s earlier works have been broader almost Preston Sturges-like comedies (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and others have leaned towards Hitchcock (The Skin I Live In). In Pain and Glory, Cruz plays the mother Jacinta. In this film, Cruz is in a supporting role (not nearly as much meat on the bone for her as say Antonio Banderas – playing Salvador the lead) but she makes the most of her scenes (she appears in flashbacks as Salvador’s mother) and this is clearly a role and character close to the heart of Almodovar.
best performance: In three of the many Almodovar collaborations, Cruz is given a chunkier, sizeable lead role. Those three films are Volver, Broken Embraces and then over a decade later again in 2021’s Parallel Mothers Although they worked together in the 1990s, it was not until Cruz went to Hollywood and became an international star (late 1990s and early 2000s) that she was cast as sort of front and center leads in Almodovar films.. Broken Embraces stands out from the others. The 1992 section of the Broken Embraces story centers around Lena (Cruz – just mesmerizing here) 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 superb beach read of a film.
stylistic innovations/traits: The Madrid-born actor has been successful in both her native Spain and Hollywood. She is not on this list without Almodovar – but so many other actors – both male and female – owe much of their success to a single director helping to lift up their career (and surely Almodovar and these directors benefitted from collaborating with talents like Cruz). Cruz also was in a Spanish film (Open Your Eyes) and its Hollywood remake (Vanilla Sky) which does not happen often. Cruz can play more balanced characters (a well-rounded one in Volver) and crazy as well (Vicky Christina Barcelona). Cruz is a four (4) time Oscar nominee and aging like fine wine with a strong start already to the 2020s with two archiveable films under her belt.
directors worked with: Pedro Almodovar (6) – I’m So Excited! is the lone unarchiveable film they worked on together, Woody Allen (1), Asghar Farhadi (1)
top five performances:
- Broken Embraces
- Vicky Christina Barcelona
- Parallel Mothers
- Everybody Knows
|1997- Open Your Eyes|
|1997- Live Flesh|
|1999- All About My Mother|
|2001- Vanilla Sky|
|2008- Vicky Christina Barcelona|
|2009- Broken Embraces|
|2017- Murder on the Orient Express|
|2018- Everybody Knows|
|2019- Pain and Glory|
|2021- Parallel Mothers|
|2021- Official Competition|
What grade did you assign to Parallel Mothers?
@Drake-Hmm. When did you archive Murder on the Orient Express(2017)? I definitely need to see it with that cast. Have you seen Death on the Nile ? I thought it was quite good. Although it has mixed reviews.
@Malith – I saw and archived both in 2022
@Drake-Interesting. What is the grade for both? What are the other Kenneth Branagh films you have in the archives?
@Malith- Recommends- that’s seven archiveable films for Branagh
1989- Henry V
1991- Dead Again
1993- Much Ado About Nothing
2017- Murder on the Orient Express
2022- Death on the Nile
Drake-Also I forgot to ask is Cruz the highest ranked Spanish(or even Mexican) actress on this list? I feel like compared to France or Italy they lack depth(and also peak performances) in this category.
@Malith- I believe she is, yes. Certainly it feels connected to the directors here and who they had starring in their movies.