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Cannes report: Penelope Cruz in Almodovar's 'Broken Embraces'

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Brokenembraces_l1

For fans of Pedro Almodovar, the fabulous narrative and visual flourishes that have always distinguished the Spanish filmmaker’s work are their own rewards. So I went into Broken Embraces receptive to delight. I’ve been hungry at Cannes for color, charm, and stylishness conveyed with a wink and a swagger, especially after the festival’s earlier bombardment of blood. (The splatter isn’t limited to Antichrist; Maybe I forgot to mention that in Brillante Mendoza’s competition entry Kinatay, the Filipino director who lingered on a popped boil-on-a-buttock in his last movie now offers a woman’s dismemberment. Would you like popcorn with that?)

 

So although there’s nothing dramatically new from Almodovar in Broken Embraces,

what’s there is so seamlessly chic, playful, and so unmistakably,

grandly Pedrovian that I enjoyed giving into a swoon of gratitude:

Here’s a filmmaker who invented his own language (influenced by Spanish

culture, movie culture, gay culture, pop culture), refined and patented

that language, and is now the world’s foremost (and only) authentic

master of that very regional yet internationally comprehensible lingo.

His newest creation folds a love story into a story of love of movies,

a melodrama that alternates between comedy and luxurious sad tale. It’s

about a screenwriter (Lluis Homar) who was once a movie director who

loved his leading lady (Penelope Cruz), who was once the mistress of a

powerful, jealous tycoon, who once bullied his gay son to spy on the

mistress and her director by making a “making of” documentary during

the shooting of that ill-fated movie. Well, that’s part of it. Each

character has two sides (and in more than one case, two identities), in

a movie that doubles and doubles back in time.

Identifying the references to older movies (including Almodovar’s own Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown)

is its own reward. As for Cruz, she has always done her best work with

Almodovar, and she’s fully delectable here. One moment she looks like

Audrey Hepburn, another like Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, or Shirley

MacLaine. Never once is she treated by the filmmaker with anything

other than respect and affection.

This year at Cannes, that counts as a novelty right there.

Coming up: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and the best of the fest

More from the Cannes Film Festival:
Lars von Trier’s Antichrist: “The closest film to a scream”
Roger Ebert, A Prophet, and a trend that ought to end
Taking Woodstock = Peace and Love and Demitri Martin
Bright Star and the Scottish charms of Paul Schneider
At Cannes: Up, Tetro, and lots of balloons

So although there’s nothing dramatically new from Almodovar in Broken Embraces,what’s there is so seamlessly chic, playful, and so unmistakably,grandly Pedrovian that I enjoyed giving into a swoon of gratitude:Here’s a filmmaker who invented his own language (influenced by Spanishculture, movie culture, gay culture, pop culture), refined and patentedthat language, and is now the world’s foremost (and only) authenticmaster of that very regional yet internationally comprehensible lingo.His newest creation folds a love story into a story of love of movies,a melodrama that alternates between comedy and luxurious sad tale. It’sabout a screenwriter (Lluis Homar) who was once a movie director wholoved his leading lady (Penelope Cruz), who was once the mistress of apowerful, jealous tycoon, who once bullied his gay son to spy on themistress and her director by making a “making of” documentary duringthe shooting of that ill-fated movie. Well, that’s part of it. Eachcharacter has two sides (and in more than one case, two identities), ina movie that doubles and doubles back in time.

Identifying the references to older movies (including Almodovar’s own Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown)is its own reward. As for Cruz, she has always done her best work withAlmodovar, and she’s fully delectable here. One moment she looks likeAudrey Hepburn, another like Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, or ShirleyMacLaine. Never once is she treated by the filmmaker with anythingother than respect and affection.

This year at Cannes, that counts as a novelty right there.

Coming up: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and the best of the fest

More from the Cannes Film Festival:
Lars von Trier’s Antichrist: “The closest film to a scream”
Roger Ebert, A Prophet, and a trend that ought to end
Taking Woodstock = Peace and Love and Demitri Martin
Bright Star and the Scottish charms of Paul Schneider
At Cannes: Up, Tetro, and lots of balloons

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