Thursday, November 26, 2009

Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos): Pedro Almoidavar

The story of a love affair opens in the present with a blind scriptwriter, Harry Caine, talking to and then having sex with a young blonde which is interrupted by his female agent and her adult son. She tells him of an offer to write a script with a
mysterious young man which he at first refuses but then accepts to discover that the young man is the son of a rich tycoon who has just died. There is a past history of the two which forms the bulk of the film in flashback. Penelope Cruz plays the tycoon's secretary from whom she seeks help to ease her father's dying days. He gives this and makes her his mistress which she enjoys and when he backs a film she says she wants to be in it. The director is none other than the scriptwriter whose real name is Mateo Blanco and, at this time, sighted. He and Cruz fall in love and have a passionate affair which the tycoon discovers and he has had his son camcord the making of the film and uses a lipreader to tell him what is being said.
His jealousy breaks into violence, firstly pushing Cruz downstairs and breaking her leg, and also cancelling the film but she says she will stay with him if he allows it to be finished. this happens but he then throws her almost naked out of the house so she and Mateo run away to Lanzarote for an idyllic interlude. They find that the film has been released and is a flop so
cruz says she will return to Madrid to find out what has happened but on the way to the airport, the car is braodsided and
she dies and he is blinded. Returning to the present, Harry Caine has become Mateo again, learns that his agent was involved in the cutting of the film that was shown though the tycoon deliberately selected the worst possible takes as a way of revenge but also that she still has the complete footage. The tycoon's son had found them in Lanzarote and filmed what happened which was not a deliberate act but a true accident. The film ends with them recutting the film. Solidly acted and well up to Almodavar's usual levels, the balance between the present and the past and the overall pacing did not quite work as it might have. Cruz is as enticing as ever and amply demonstrates that natural beauty is better than surgically enhanced
efforts are. The strangeness of the Lanzarote landscape emphasises the separation of the lovers from the everyday world, brief though their time there may be. An excellent near miss.

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