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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Pedro Almodovar
Pedro Almodovar
Penelope Cruz
Lluis Homar
Blanca Portillo
Jose Luis Gomez.
Directors
Screenwriters
Running Time
127 minutes

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Broken Embraces
Almodóvar flirts with Hitchcock


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Plot
Blind writer Harry Caine (Lluís Homar) used to be sighted filmmaker Mateo Blanco until a car smash robbed him of sight and girlfriend Lena (Penélope Cruz). Diego (Tamar Novas), the son of his agent, helps Harry work, prompting him to think over the past and revisit some of its mysteries.


Review
Broken Embraces
Pedro Almodóvar continues to flirt with Hitchcockian high-style melodrama, even as he defaults to kooky, primary-coloured comedy. In Broken Embraces, the last act is built around re-editing the flop film (deliberately botched by an evil producer) which ended the hero’s directorial career to discover the doppelgänger of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, Almodóvar’s own breakthrough. It’s a complicated story, taking place in two time periods, told with a casual confidence which sweeps through an extended running time and plot feints that peter out like ill-tended desert tracks.

Protagonist Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar) has let go of his original identity as a film director to become his own alter ego. Selective flashbacks show how Lena (Penélope Cruz), failed actress and sometime call girl, was ensnared by crooked financier Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gomez) before being cast in Mateo’s last film. At some point, the modern story and the set-up intersect, and we shift back to the triangle of Mateo, Lena and Ernesto. While the characters try to make a film farce, they live a Hollywood melodrama as the paranoid Ernesto (in the ‘Claude Rains’ role) becomes increasingly malicious. Fetishist concern with Cruz’s high heels sets her up for a nasty fall in Ernesto’s gloomy mansion, and then a trip to the lunar-seeming landscape of Lanzarote, where the lovers are stalked by Ernesto’s gay videographer son.

In the last act, long-standing mysteries are solved and a blind man sets out to re-edit the film that ended his career. It’s beside the point to argue that if an alternative masterpiece version of Ishtar surfaced, it still wouldn’t overcome the film’s initial bad reception since this is a teasing fantasy about cinema, romance, possibility, comedy, tragedy and charm. Cruz seesaws between the styles of Audrey Hepburn and Tippi Hedren, but has gained a peppery screen personality of her own which makes her more than just an old movie ghost, while Homar — in a role which contrasts vividly with his recent turn in Fermat’s Room — is restrained, complicated and potentially a breakout character actor superstar.


Verdict
Gorgeous and seductive, if pitched at Almodóvar fans and perhaps a touch long. Those drawn by Cruz’s divadom will wonder why it takes so long to get to her — though she is wholly dazzling when it does.


Reviewed by Kim Newman


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Average user rating for Broken Embraces
Empire Star Rating

Broken Embraces--Almodovar does Sirk

Loved it. Cruz is brilliant. Great all the way around. What a great blend of Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:55, 29 March 2010 | Report This Post


Shades of Hitchcock and Fellini are present in the lastest work from Almodovar, as a blind screenwriter tells of a time when he was a sighted director fell in love with his leading lady, and the tragic events that led to his blindness. Its more of the same from the Spanish auteur, but when his stories are this classy, who cares? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by duncan1964 at 09:32, 10 February 2010 | Report This Post


Shades of Hitchcock and Fellini are present in the lastest work from Almodovar, as a blind screenwriter tells of a time when he was a sighted director fell in love with his leading lady, and the tragic events that led to his blindness. Its more of the same from the Spanish auteur, but when his stories are this classy, who cares? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by duncan1964 at 09:32, 10 February 2010 | Report This Post


Loved it! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by xmagic_dustx at 00:15, 06 February 2010 | Report This Post


Beautiful.

Ok, I agree that this doesn't feel a lot like Almodovar, but it's still a dark, bold, beautiful and extremely sexy film that shatters you and seduces you. Penelope Cruz may be a strong contender for the next Oscars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 20:22, 05 January 2010 | Report This Post


. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 21:06, 02 October 2009 | Report This Post


It just didn't feel like an Almodovar film

OK, I haven't seen Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown so I didn't catch the parallels to it at the end, but I've seen all the recent Almodovar's, and Broken Embraces felt a little like a Hollywoodised version of himself. The mystery aspect of the film was a bit of a letdown (it took far too long to get going, then when it did get going, it didn't go very far) and it felt unnecessarily dragged out (what exactly was the point of having Diego OD at the beginning? It seemed like a very con... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by snakes_on_a_plane at 21:31, 02 September 2009 | Report This Post


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