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Broken Embraces/ Los abrazos rotos


Stars: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, Ruben Ochandiano, Tamar Novas, Angela Molina

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Almodovar (his forename ‘Pedro’ is surplus to requirements since he is one of those few hallowed filmmakers whose surname means all) has made his longest film. Also, for my money, it is his most preciously pretentious offering, created to underline his unique greatness, a beautifully photographed colour-coordinated insight into his way of filmmaking, showcasing to perfection his muse Cruz in a variety of poses.

But Cruz vanishes relatively soon, leaving centre screen to Lluis Homar who is excellent as the melodrama’s central figure, a blind writer-director who was once involved with the now dead actress Cruz who died in the same accident that blinded him and now recalls his previous life in a turgid love-death-and-remembrance narrative replete with movie-buff-friendly film references. Result? Almodovar’s longest film to date felt even longer. It looks good but the story it attempts to tell is less than compelling.

(Since Almodovar luxuriates in movie references, let me offer an off-the-wall one of my own. Cruz won her Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and perhaps her director Woody Allen might have talked about his truly dreadful 2002 flop Hollywood Ending, thankfully unreleased in Britain. So why do I mention this? Because the protagonist of Hollywood Ending was a blind film director too. Who knows? Whatever his genesis, Almodovar’s blind hero is no more believable or entertaining than was Allen’s).

Alan Frank

Spain 2009. UK Distributor: Pathe/Warner. Colour.
128 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 03 Sep 2009