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March 2010

Broken Embraces

cast: Pen�lope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanco Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, and Ruben Ochandiano

writer and director: Pedro Almod�var

128 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Path� DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
review by William N. Dyer

Broken Embraces

This is a story of love, lust, revenge, and transformation set against a background of the Madrid film scene. Director turned scriptwriter Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) also known previously as Mateo Blanco was blinded in a car crash 14 years ago. He is convinced by his agent Blanco Portillo (Judit Garcia) to have a meeting about a possible project with a mystery character called Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano). It transpires that Ray X is some one from Harry's past that Harry would have preferred not to have met as it has reawakened memories from the time when he could see.

The damage is done and the series of events that brought him to the present day are effectively interspersed as flashbacks with contemporary sequences. An old sugar daddy, Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez) helps ex-call girl Lena (Pen�lope Cruz), now his secretary, to get medical treatment for her dying father. Lena becomes Ernesto's mistress and takes to the luxuriant life he offers her.

Eventually she gets bored and decides she wants to be an actress and that's how she meets Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar), later to be known as Harry Caine. But Mateo has to involve Ernesto in the financing of the film. Harry and Lena have an affair which is discovered by Ernesto through Ernesto Jr who has been filming the filming. Lena and Mateo flee to Lanzarote to escape the clutches of Ernesto. Ernesto gets revenge on them by editing the film he financed into the worst possible version and releasing it to instant failure.

On Lanzarote, the evening before they are to return to Madrid, they are driving back to their hotel from an evening out and they become the victims of a hit and run road accident. Lena is killed and Mateo blinded. He becomes, at that moment, Harry Caine. Transformation starts when Harry sits with Diego (Tamar Novas) son of Blanca, his agent, to listen to that film and Harry realises that these are the out takes that have been put together. He phones Blanca and she assures him that she has the negatives, recordings etc to allow the film to be re-edited. Through the re-editing process Mateo is transformed.

This synopsis of Broken Embraces (aka: Los abrazos rotos) belies the richness of the film and the sub-textual elements that are there to be explored. The cinematography is excellent and the film score and theme music are haunting and evocative. The feel of the late 20th century is caught very effectively even down to the way the film renders the colours in the flashback scenes. A perfect mood is created. The story moves forward at a good pace and reaches a satisfying ending. Overall the acting is very good and I saw no ham at all.

If you want to broaden your cinematic interests to something more than the conventional Hollywood offerings then this is a very accessible Spanish language film with easy to read and unobtrusive subtitles that do not detract from your enjoyment of a very good story. It's highly recommended.

Bonus features: short film: The Cannibalistic Councillor (aka: La concejala antropofaga) as by Mateo Blanco, deleted scenes, UK trailer, Directing Girls And Suitcases featurette, and a photo gallery.



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