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A Look Into Pedro Almodovar's Film Los Abrazos Rotos / Broken Embraces

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Pedro Almodóvar is a Mozartian figure weaving profundity with playfulness, never belittling either in the process. His affinity towards melodrama and camp is never upsetting to his clear vision to portray humanity in all its humanness. His depiction of human emotion - generally through scenes of a frank and direct nature - are among the most affecting I know. Camp and pathos dance together in a playful duet that reminds us that Almodóvar has technique to burn, and craft is among his strongest gifts.

Almodovar

I discovered Almodóvar in 1998 when a friend made me see Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother). I don’t think I had ever cried and laughed so much at a movie previously. I was immediately in love with this director. It was a year later when I was introduced to his earlier work, Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios. I could see his craft then and re-watched Todo (one of many, many times) to revel in his growth as an artist. This man was an ingenious filmmaker with an incredible sense for portraying emotion and for inspiring riveting performances in his actors and actresses.

His most recent film, Los abrazos rotos, or Broken Embraces, is a new experience. We see his infatuation with Hollywood manifested and his idolization of Hitchcock revealed further. His use of allusion is generally bedazzling and breeds familiarity without being overly synthetic. Though in this case, his self-referential, alluding to Mujeres, movie-within-a-movie (Chicas y maletas) is quizzical. Its purpose is unclear. I find it flouncy, but not displaying the expected depth.

Almodóvar has a penchant for re-using a fixed cast. It’s as if he creates his own boho acting troupe and creates work for them. This is a beautiful layer to his work. I believe that the actors and actresses influence his films and their sometimes wacky plots. In Abrazos, Penélope Cruz is sublime. She becomes a Hepburn-like slyph, a remarkable juxtaposition to the curvy and earthy mamacita she played in his last film, Volver. Blanca Portillo, also in Volver, plays the confidant and agent to Harry Caine (played by Lluís Homar), a blind screenwriter, whose connection to Cruz’s character is revealed only halfway through.

Through a series of back-and-forth cuts in time (1992,1994, 2008) we see the tangled web of relationships between the characters: lovers, muse, father, director, secretary, concubine-come-wife. We see the range of emotions that Almodóvar loves to use, as well as his unique and bold color pallet. The man is obsessed with the color red and it works. His use of emotion in this film sometimes seems slightly maudlin and not as well conceived as his other works. You feel something, but you don’t cry or laugh, at least not as much as in response to his other films.

This is a beautiful film but not his best. But don’t worry too much, A “B” for Almodóvar is an easy “A” for most filmmakers. This is a most enjoyable film. I recommend, if you are able, turning off the subtitles. The translation is slightly askew.

Los abrazos rotos released on March 16. It is also available on Netflix, Amazon (to download or rent), and iTunes (to download).

View the trailer here.

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Joe is a native Philadelphia who began writing music at the age of 12. He has worked with the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and Seattle Symphony, among others. He has also entered the world of pop music and remixing. He teaches both privately and at Drexel University. Joe has been writing for the arts for 10 years. You can follow Joe on twitter at twitter.com/HallmanComposer. You can find his music on iTunes and all other major digital retailers. For a taste of his music, check out: www.reverbnation.com/JosephHallman 

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