Friday, 2 October 2009

Broken Embraces

Pedro Almodovar is my favorite living filmmaker. This is not his best film. Each frame is fabulous to look at but as a whole not on a par with All About My Mother or Talk to Her or even Volver. I adore his mixture of noir and melodrama, his combining of Raymond Chandler and Douglas Sirk. But there were too many plot problems and unworthy implausibilities to keep me entirely in Almodovar's thrall, which is where I want to be. Almodovar is all about making the implausible plausible only to finally reach some ecstatic and transcendent level of implausiblity that is ART, but here he gets stuck too often in the first level of implausibility. Furthermore, by the end of the film there are too many plot twists tied up or not tied up in unsatisfactory ways. Film quoted was Rossellini's Voyage in Italy. Like Hitchcock's signature walk-ons, in nearly every Almodovar film a classic movie plays briefly on a television. Voyage in Italy is an odd film with Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders about a marriage falling apart. I think Broken Embraces firmly establishes Penelope Cruz as our only living Diva. (It was also clear in Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona, a dreadful film saved by Cruz's performance alone.) Does any other actress out there even come close to her Diva status? I can think of plenty of great actresses but none of them true divas. Despite my disappointment, I have little doubt this will be by far the best film I see this fall.

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