Almodóvar’s movie of movies

For the price of a single admission, Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, “Broken Embraces,” offers an encyclopedia of movies.

Packed with both identified and sneaky scenes from classic films, it is a cineaste’s delight, self-referential
to a fault, a work to treasure — and probably to watch again.

Almodóvar has become one of the greatest storytellers of our times. For more than three decades now, 30 of his films have cast a spell over audiences. Many are too long — as is this, at more than two hours — but they are rarely boring.

A few — especially 1999’s “All About My Mother” and 2002’s “Talk to Her” — go far beyond being interesting. They are great, unforgettable films.

“Broken Embraces” tells as compelling a story as Almodóvar has come up with yet; it’s bright and witty film noir in which high humor and dark deeds mix freely. Yet it doesn’t measure up to the director’s best, only because the vivid, fascinating characters lack depth and relevance.

The film isn’t moving, but it’s engaging, entertaining and clever fun.

It’s thrilling to watch Penélope Cruz in yet another appealing performance — the way her character Lena is caught up between a rich old sugar daddy (José Luis Gómez) and her true-love movie director (Lluís Homar).

The director is blind, but does great work (thanks, Pedro, we get that). His punishment for stealing Lena is that his fabulous comedy is deliberately mis-edited before release. The documentation of the editing process could save you a whole semester in film school. (This is just a subplot, not a spoiler.)

The film-within-the-film, called “Girls and Suitcases,” consists of variations on a scene from Almodóvar’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” His “Matador,” “Bad Education” and “High Heels” all come into play.

More about the encyclopedic: Consider that Cruz’s character alone includes aspects of Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly and Sabrina; Giuletta Masina from “La strada”; Shirley MacLaine from “Some Came Running” and “The Apartment”; Gene Tierney; Linda Darnell; Constance Bennett; Claudia Cardinale; and “all the heroines of Italian neo-realism, a style that has always been an inspiration to me,” Almodóvar says.

That’s just for starters. How this man loves his business!

 

MOVIE REVIEW

Broken Embraces

Three stars

Starring Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, José Luis Gómez

Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Rated R

Running time 2 hours 7 minutes

artsbroken embracesentertainmentMoviespenelope cruz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Lowell High School is considered an academically elite public school. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Students denounce ‘rampant, unchecked racism’ at Lowell after slurs flood anti-racism lesson

A lesson on anti-racism at Lowell High School on Wednesday was bombarded… Continue reading

Scooter companies have expanded their distribution in neighborhoods such as the Richmond and Sunset districts. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board signs off on changes to scooter permit program

Companies will gete longer permits, but higher stakes

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

MARIETTA, GA - NOVEMBER 15: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia taps elbows during a rally for supporters on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Both become senators Wednesday.  (Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Vice President Harris swears in senators Padilla, Warnock, Ossoff

New Democratic senators tip balance of power in upper legislative house

Most Read