Broken Embraces (Blu-ray)
The fourth pairing of Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar shows that the director and his muse are determined to take their work to new places and to stretch the limits of their abilities. It’s clear that both of them have grown in their respective professions since they first worked together in LIVE FLESH. BROKEN EMBRACES is a wonderful film and if you extend a little patience, you’ll find that the end product will leave a lasting impression on you that will have you thinking about the film long after you finish watching it.
The center of the film is Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar), a former director turned writer that is reciting his tragic love story to Diego (Tamar Novas), the son of his agent, Judit (Blanca Portillo). Through his story of lost love is when we meet Lena (Penelope Cruz), who is living with Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez), a wealthy businessman that treats her like a prisoner. But in a chance meeting, Mateo casts Lena as the star of his next film and that leads Ernesto down a dark path of jealousy.
There are two stories unraveling in the film, the flashback that concerns the love triangle between Mateo, Lena and Ernesto and the present day story that involves Mateo and Judit as they come to terms with what happened so many years ago. The problem is that I didn’t care at all about the present day story, but was mesmerized by the flashback love story. It also seemed that more effort was put into that story in both screenwriting and directing style. The scene where Lena mouths the words she’s saying on screen as Ernesto reacts was breathtaking and heart breaking at the same time. It was just a wonderful, exceptionally filmed moment.
When I watch foreign films that deal with the idea of love and what it means to lose someone you love, I feel that sometimes other countries have a way of telling love stories that Americans do not. I realized that I was deeply involved with the love story between Mateo and Lena, despite the fact that we had very little setup to their story. In fact, one of my complaints is that we didn’t have enough setup, but Almodovar managed to make us care about the characters anyway. If we had focused on that love and how it grew and developed, the film would have been better for it. But even with what we were given and knowing the ending, the audience was still shaken by the events transpiring on screen.
I am a fan of Almodovar and perhaps that led me to be more forgiving for some of this film’s shortcomings, but I found myself captivated any time Penelope Cruz was on camera. I don’t consider myself a huge fan of hers, but like Uma Thurman with Quentin Tarantino, I become a bigger fan of Cruz whenever she works with Almodovar. This is a quality film and fans of Cruz and Almodovar will definitely not be disappointed.
Video: Almodovar is a master at using colors in film and having them express emotions and moods, so it’s a good thing this transfer was top notch. This is actually the first Blu-ray of his I’ve watched and I was impressed by how beautiful it looked.
Audio: The audio in his films isn’t much of a focal point, but this track was very nice.
The Cannibalistic Councillor (7:35): This is kind of a short film, taken from the movie they were filming within the movie. It mainly featured Carmen Machi giving a huge monologue about a variety of inappropriate topics.
Deleted Scenes (12:20): Two of these were extra scenes that served no purpose and deserved to be cut. The other was more of the movie within the movie, which I’m still not sure I understand. But the last scene added a lot more to that story.
Pedro Directs Penelope (5:53): This was a cool feature because it had a split screen of Pedro in the director’s chair and Penelope in front of the camera. Pedro yells out lines and direction and Penelope responds.
On the Red Carpet: The New York Film Festival Closing Night (3:13): Not much more to say that the title doesn’t capture. It was okay, but there was no need to have cutaway scenes to the movie in such a short featurette.
Variety Q&A with Penelope Cruz (6:19): I like Penelope Cruz and think she’s a very beautiful and talented actress. But she’s been doing American films for over 10 years now and her English is worse than it was when she first started. Anyway, an interviewer asks her a handful of questions and she responds appropriately. Again, too many movie scenes for such a short featurette.