I recently attended a preview of Pedro Almodóvar's new film Broken Embraces.
Like a dessert composed of crust, cream, compote and chocolate, this movie is an amour foulish confection of fatality, jealousy, treachery and guilt.
If you like a movie in which "Gay" is not the central thesis but rather a naturally occurring part of the plot and characterization, you probably already admire Almodóvar's work and won't be disappointed with what you'll get in this edition.
I have not always been among his admirers and have sometimes fallen asleep, weary with trying to follow the goings on. I did not fall asleep during Broken Embraces, and my recommendation goes far beyond that faint praise.
There are two things I'd like to note about Penelope Cruz (Lena). She is probably the most beautiful human being alive today (Wait till you see her done up as Audrey Hepburn!), and her award-worthy delivery of quiet desperation drives the film from beginning to end. There is an especially masterful sex scene which takes place with the two participants entirely hidden under crumpled white sheets. When we finally do see Lena's face, everything is clear.
Almodóvar is like a Spanish Douglas Sirk. Broken Blossoms seems all about domestic balance and upset. Maybe that is why every shot in an Almodóvar film - even the exterior ones - always feels claustrophobic to me. Even the gorgeous retro furniture seems tense and about to collapse or run out of the room.
What was most interesting to me was the impression I had of a director who is steadily improving and fine-tuning his work. So different from Woody Allen who simply repeats himself without improvement. Almodóvar is becoming a better storyteller. His earlier films seemed to be full of too many distractions. Not so this one. I was entirely in his hands from beginning to end and there were two moments when I was startled to the point of jumping out of my seat slightly. I hope you will see Broken Embraces.
Here's the trailer.
Here's everything else.
Broken Embraces opens in theaters on November 20th.