278) Broken Embraces (2009) Dir: Pedro Almodovar Date Released: November 2009 Date Seen: September 4, 2009 Rating: 2.75/5
Having already seen 10 of Pedro Almodovar's films before Broken Embraces, I feel I can confidently say that I already knew that he's an accomplished sensualist. This is not something I ever really doubted. Accordingly, seeing that Broken Embraces is nothing but a sumptuous technical exercise for Almodovar is not at all re-assuring. Embraces' shallow script sacrifices nothing memorable and never really connects with its characters on more than a superficial, self-referential level. Almodovar is more interested in dressing up his images and Penelope Cruz, his favorite sex object, than in developing his script beyond a scaffold for a film he's made several times by now.
This leaves even the most ravishing of the film's earlier scenes bereft of real emotional involvement save for their immediate charms, which are enough for Almodovar, it seems. Broken Embraces is essentially a defense of his love of the sensuous and stylish for their own sakes. He begins with a sex scene wherein a blind man seduces a pretty blonde thing slowly but surely and then ditches her in a flash after his assistant walks in. These are disposable pleasures but are nonetheless essential to the character and Almodovar by extension. Unfortunately, I'd only agree with Almodovar if he either decided to go whole hog with that concept and made a 70 minute-long avant garde series of carnal encounters or, y'know, a narrative-based film with a compelling story.
When it comes time for Almodovar's script deliver a convincing backstory to save its predictable doomed love triangle from trite obscurity, it flounders about with uninspired, melodramatic plot twists unworthy of The Days of Our Lives. Even the characters look bored with their creator's contrived scenario: because Almodovar is more absorbed in picking out only the crispest new fabrics and colors for them to wear, they make "Claro" their de facto response and just bob along the film's stagnant surface. And if they don't care, I have no good reason to either.
Note: So disappointed to see Almodovar's characters name-drop the various elements that went into the film, like Elevator to the Gallows, Peeping Tom or Marilyn Monoroe. We get it, Pedro. You're feeling nostalgic and love pop. Move on, now, pls.