As far as I can tell, Pedro Almodóvar is the most well-known Spanish filmmaker, and has a shot at being the most well-known European one, too. It’s been a lonely three years since his last film, Volver crossed the Atlantic, but now we get Broken Embraces, another story of the consequences and rewards of love. Was it worth the wait? Of course it was.
The story is a complicated entanglement of a filmmaker, Harry Caine, as he recalls his affair with his lead actress Lena (my wife, Penélope Cruz). Though they’re madly in love, they’re kept from happiness by Lena’s boyfriend, the millionaire and producer of Harry’s film, Ernesto. Afraid he’ll ruin the film, they don’t keep the relationship from Ernesto, but not without severe difficulties and consequences.
I find it exceedingly difficult to explain why I love the films of Almodóvar as much as I do, even though he’s easily one of my favorite living filmmakers. Stylistically, he’s nothing too far out of the ordinary (with the exception of his wonderful use of bright colors.) Really, the best guess I can make for why I like his work as much as I do is that he’s an utter master of the orchestrating characters and sexual relationships through the normally tired genre of the Melodrama. Though his stories could often be confused with something from a soap opera, he’s so competent at presenting appealing characters and their complicated, real-world dilemmas that to associate him with daytime television would be a true insult. A soap opera would be lucky to have one writer as talented as Almodóvar.
I wouldn’t normally consider myself to be the kind of film enthusiast that would take in noir-ish love stories with much interest, and yet Almodóvar proves once again that he’s adept as fuck at getting me to care. When couples argue in the movies, I’m not usually enthralled; but at one instance of domestic violence in Broken Embraces I gasped aloud, something I only do every other month in a year that involves over a hundred movies.
He’s just a master of making you care about the people in his little cinematic worlds, and he hits it out of the park with every one of his films for the last fifteen years.
If you’ve yet to become acquainted with the work of Almodóvar, Broken Embraces might not be the best place to start. It’s very good, but it’s not as moving or gorgeous as some of his earlier work – try out 2002’s Talk To Her, and prepare to meet one of our greatest directors.