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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A film must be finished, even if it must be finished blind" - a seductive film noir about filmmaking and obsession
Harry Caine is a blind screenwriter, watched over by his former production assistant, Judit, and her son, Diego. His simple routine is upset when he hears of the death of a wealthy tycoon, and is later visited by the dead man's son in disguise. Pressed by Diego to explain, Harry recounts the tragic tale of how he, then known as Mateo Blanco, had fallen in love and had...
Published on January 23, 2010 by Nathan Andersen

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad, but Stale and Underwritten in Parts.
In "Broken Embraces", Pedro Almodovar rehashes a lot of themes and devices from his earlier films to create a pastiche that is pleasant enough but not as strong as his more daring and original works. Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) is a blind screenwriter who had been film director Mateo Blanco before he lost his sight. Now he dictates screenplays to his assistant Diego...
Published on March 18, 2010 by mirasreviews


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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A film must be finished, even if it must be finished blind" - a seductive film noir about filmmaking and obsession, January 23, 2010
This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
Harry Caine is a blind screenwriter, watched over by his former production assistant, Judit, and her son, Diego. His simple routine is upset when he hears of the death of a wealthy tycoon, and is later visited by the dead man's son in disguise. Pressed by Diego to explain, Harry recounts the tragic tale of how he, then known as Mateo Blanco, had fallen in love and had an affair with the tycoon's former lover, when she played a role in a film he was then directing, and of the accident that left him blind. The story itself is convoluted but clear enough - and I can't quite understand all the complaints about the story being confusing since film noir often tells a story within a story and keeps the audience guessing. Things are resolved in the end, and nearly every loose strand is tied. This one adds to the usual complexities a reflection on cinema, and two films within the film, and explores what it takes to revisit and remake the past so as to go on living.

It is a very poignant and at times quite amusing film about memory, lies, double lives, jealousy and revenge. Beautifully filmed with the eye for vibrant color and beauty that Almodovar is known for, the film also serves as a reminder of the changes in film technology that have occurred over the past few decades, and of the changes that have taken place in Almodovar's own style as a filmmaker, given that the film within the film suggests the more melodramatic and stylized work of his past. The film within a film bears a striking resemblance to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film that placed Almodovar on the world stage as one of the most intriguing of auteurs. Perhaps not among his greatest masterpieces - like All About My Mother or Talk to Her (Hable con Ella), which are my personal favorites - but still a very entertaining and provocative new film by one of the greatest living filmmakers. Highly recommended.

Update: I just saw this again and was struck by Almodovar's mastery of conflicting moods in this film - nostalgia, melancholy, hilarity, rapture, tension and suspense. Somehow it manages to be all of these without becoming muddled. The film also manages to channel a wide range of associations with other films and filmmakers while remaining thoroughly in the grasp of Almodovar and his distinctive sensibilities. On this second viewing I detected hints of Antonioni (especially L'Avventura), Hitchcock (especially Vertigo), Michael Powell (with an explicit reference to Peeping Tom), and, of course, of Almodovar's own earlier work. A beautiful and intelligent film, that holds up on multiple viewings.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad, but Stale and Underwritten in Parts., March 18, 2010
This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
In "Broken Embraces", Pedro Almodovar rehashes a lot of themes and devices from his earlier films to create a pastiche that is pleasant enough but not as strong as his more daring and original works. Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) is a blind screenwriter who had been film director Mateo Blanco before he lost his sight. Now he dictates screenplays to his assistant Diego (Tamar Novas), the son of his longtime manager Judit (Blanco Portillo), who wishes Harry would write scripts for more popular genres. One day as aspiring filmmaker (Ruben Ochandiano) proposes that Harry collaborate on a script about a son who avenges himself on his detested father posthumously. That inspires Harry to tell Diego the story of how he fell in love and lost his sight 14 years earlier, a subject of which he has not spoken in all those years.

In 1994, Harry met Lena (Penelope Cruz), the beautiful mistress of financier Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez), when he directed her in her first film, a comedy called "Girls and Suitcases". They fell in love and incurred Ernesto's wrath. The film shifts back and forth, between 1994 and 2008, as Diego takes in the story, and Judit grows wary of what Harry might tell him. Harry and Lena's affair is deliberately clichéd, but I waited for Almodovar to give it his unique spin. Unfortunately, it never quite delivers. Lena seems more an object than a fully realized character, which might be fitting, as she is in Harry's memory. But as a main character, she is underwritten. Jose Luis Gomez is perfect as a man in the grip of obsession for Lena, so much so that I wish Ernesto had a more prominent role.

Sometimes Pedro Almodovar has a stroke of brilliance. And sometimes he seems to make movies because he likes making movies, even if he doesn't have anything fresh to contribute. I've seen too much of "Broken Embraces" in his other films, and it just never engages the audience. Harry and Lena's love has no spark. I could see the "surprises" coming a mile away. Some actions seem to lack motivation. Penelope Cruz is luminous. There's never any doubt as to why she's a movie star in Almodovar's films. Jose Luis Gomez is very good, and so Blanco Portillo would be if the writing for her character were a little better. I think those familiar with Almodovar's work are going to find this one stale. But I can't really recommend it to those new to Almodovar, as you would be better off seeing the great "All About My Mother" (1999) or, if you want noir, the labyrinthine noir homage/spoof "Bad Education" (2004). In Spanish with optional subtitles.

The DVD (Sony 2010): Bonus features include 3 deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer (2 min), and 4 featurettes. "The Cannibalistic Councillor" (7 min) is a scene from the fictional "Girls and Suitcases" movie, in which Chon, a woman of conservative politics and Councillor of Social Affairs, goes on about her sexual obsession and foot fetish. This is pure, hilarious Almodovar and not to be missed. There is another scene from the fictional movie among the deleted scenes. "Pedro Directs Penelope" (6 min, English subtitles) shows us what Almodovar is saying offscreen while two actresses play a scene. "On the Red Carpet: The New York Film Festival Closing Night" (3 min) has a few brief interviews. "Variety Q&A with Penelope Cruz" (6 min) is an interview of Cruz by Todd McCarthy. Subtitles are available for the film in English and French. Dubbing available in French.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great director running over too-familiar ground, February 18, 2010
By 
Muzzlehatch (the walls of Gormenghast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) is a blind screenwriter leading a quiet life in 2008 Madrid who is brought back - rather against his will - to contemplating the events of 1994 that changed his life when one of the people intimately involved in them, a rich industrialist named Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez) has died. He starts to open up to his young friend Diego (Tamar Novas), the son of his agent Judit (Blanca Portillo) about Magdalena (Penélope Cruz), first an employee of Martel and then his mistress, who came into his life as a would-be actress and ended up much more. And through the telling, secrets involving Diego and his mother also come to light, tragedies and perhaps resolutions that had lain dormant for a decade and a half...

Although I don't have any truly enormous complaints about BROKEN EMBRACES, I don't have a whole lot that's really wonderful to say about it either. This feels to me like Almodóvar running on autopilot; all of the major themes of his past several films (haunting pasts, accidents and illnesses and disabilities, the life of the writer, the sacrifices women have to make) are in evidence here but there isn't much that's fresh or interesting in his handling of any of them, many of the revelations are telegraphed a mile away (if you can't figure out Diego's secret before the halfway point you probably haven't seen ten movies in your life), and the emotions seem muted and dry. There's little of his earlier trademark panache or humor, and the film seems to move relentlessly towards a fairly predetermined ending which comes off as too easy and not necessarily believable or even deserved..

Cruz and Homar probably come off the best in the central roles, maybe because they have the closest things to real characters to play, though even they feel underdeveloped. Gómez' Martel just seems like a possessive rich guy caricature, and none of the other characters register at all beyond the parts they play revolving around the central love triangle. Blanca Portillo, fantastic in VOLVER, seems wasted here - I don't have any complaints about her acting, but her role seems underwritten and bland. The director's use of color, even, strikes me as a little less impressive than usual and the film feels like it could have been set and shot just about anywhere, the feeling for place isn't all that strong.

I wasn't too too bored despite the 127 minutes that seemed like it could have easily been pared to 100 or less, so it wasn't a complete washout, and Penélope is as lovely as ever, so points there. But not enough, when all is said and done. Easily my least-favorite Almodóvar film so far; I don't mind that he keeps traveling the same roads of memory and loss -- many directors have made wonderful careers with less variation than he has typically offered in his recent work -- but I think this one just ended up a little too straight and narrow and the scenery just wasn't memorable enough. If you're a fan, it's worth a watch I guess; if you're new to the director, I'd recommend any of his other films since the late 90s before this one
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly broken..., August 22, 2011
By 
Andrew Ellington (I'm kind of everywhere) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
In parts, I really enjoyed `Broken Embraces', but as a whole it felt very underwhelming. The characters are there, but they aren't completely woven into the fabric of the film, and the ending in particular seemed sloppily put together and underwritten. Some of the character integration felt `off' from the primary focus of the film and so it took away from the end result. It leaves you waiting for a resolve that it appears was never truly intended.

`Broken Embraces' tells the story of a screenwriter named Mateo Blanco who falls in love with the mistress of a very jealous and ultimately dangerous man; Ernesto Martel. Ernesto is a stockbroker who takes the luminescent Lena as his mistress when she finds herself in desperate need of money. Ernesto cares for her concerns and, in return, she gives herself to him. Lena's dream is to one day become an actress, and so when she hears of an audition for one of Mateo's pictures, she takes a leap of faith that winds up in her favor, since Mateo is instantly smitten by her endearing charm and undeniable good looks. Despite Ernesto's concerns, Lena takes the part and soon she falls into a passionate affair with Mateo.

The affair ends badly, and as a result Mateo loses the girl and his sight and his name; going by the name Harry Caine instead.

Pedro Almodovar is not a director I am entirely familiar with. I think I've seen four of his films, and three of them have been made post-2000. So, with that in mind, I am not really familiar with his overall style. It is apparent from what I have seen (outside of `Talk to Her') that he embraces the soap operatic aspects of his culture and infiltrates that into his work. I guess there is a tad of that in `Talk to Her' as well, but it is certainly tamed down. In `Broken Embraces', that stylistic approach is a hindrance. I loved the layers of soapiness in `Volver', for it felt so in tune with the flow of the film. Here, the opening act (especially the scenes involving Lena and Ernesto's initial `affair') seems somewhat disjointed and uneven. It doesn't help that some actors in the film, namely Ruben Ochandiano (who plays Ernesto's bitter son), seem to be starring in a different film altogether. Sadly, it isn't just the tone of the film that seems underworked. The story itself has nice flourished of complexities and mysteries (the throwback to the great noirs of the past is obvious here) but certain layers of the film are underwritten and in turn take away from the film's impact. Especially when concerning the development of Ernesto's son, who pops back into Mateo's life with a strange request. He goes from intriguing character to mere plot device; a prop of sorts who basically serves as a way to propel other aspects of the film forward. The ending is also unfulfilling. It just seems like a cheap way to close the film, and it doesn't really make a lot of sense when you think about it (Judit confessing to what she has kept all those years makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER when she was fully aware of Mateo's feelings on the film in question). It just felt like a lazy way to `tie up loose ends' without really having to tie them up.

It's an odd feeling, considering that the final lines in the film deal with the importance of `finishing' a picture.

`Broken Embraces' doesn't seem finished.

But, amidst all the negative is some serious positives in the vein of the performances found in this film. Nearly everyone outside of the aforementioned Ruben Ochandiano is very good here. Penelope Cruz is luminescent and perfectly mysterious in her delivery; attracting us with her allure and holding us in her presence by her commanding air of intrigue. She also nails the emotional complexities (the disgust, the lust, the self-pity, the frustrations) with ease. Jose Luis Gomez is brilliantly diabolical as Ernesto. I love that he is ruthless and harsh and yet it finds a way to find some sympathy for this pathetic man trying desperately to hold onto the woman he adores. He layers the creepy with the sympathetic well. Lluis Homar has some great moments as Mateo, finding depth in his characters memories. For me, the standout was Blanca Portillo. She has such a quiet intensity; her eyes burning through the screen as she pines for a man who doesn't return her affections and she tortures herself over immature decisions.

It's a stunning performance.

While I have my issues with the film's overall tone, I do love some of the directorial decisions made by Pedro. He knows how to build a scene and he understands how to frame his films so that they make the desired impact. The love scenes in particular really color the story well; using tricks to create an emotion within the scene (the `blind' anonymous humping on the couch; the chaotic filming of the rapturous start to the `affair'; the suffocating sensations under the sheets). It's just one (or three) examples of Almodovar's ability to weave sequences with subtle manipulations.

In the end I don't `highly' recommend this one, but it is worth seeing. Pedro can tell a story well, even if that story isn't completely `there'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!, January 1, 2011
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This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
I had seen this movie at a theater, and bought it to share with family who had not seen it. This is a typical Almodóvar film with all the "unexpected" twists that one comes to expect from this versatile producer.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing human drama of love and jealousy, September 22, 2010
This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
Yet another absorbing human drama from Pedro Almadovar, surely the most interesting filmmaker working today. It begins as we meet the protagonist, a blind writer who has abandoned his true name and goes by the pseudonym Harry Caine. Gradually we learn through his web of complex relationships how he lost his sight and his soul.

We flash back to the 1980s. Harry is directing a comedy -- and his female lead, Lena, played by Cruz, is the mistress of an elderly but extremely rich and extremely possessive industrialist. Of course, Harry and Lena fall in love. We also meet other key characters -- Harry's agent who is in love with him, her son who helps look after him and the industrialist's son who is plain weird and creepy.

This movie unfolds like a thriller. The landscapes, especially the stark, volcanic terrain of the Canary Isles where the climax takes place, add immensely to the experience. There are some unforgettable images -- one that I can't get out of my mind is a close-up of Harry's two hands outlined against a projection screen. On the screen is a fuzzy image of him kissing Lena -- but of course he can't see it because he's blind.

Cruz gives yet another wonderful performance. She is of course strikingly beautiful but she's not afraid to be photographed looking haggard and bereft. She's also not afraid to bare her body to advance the plot or our understanding of her love for Harry.

In the end, the movie is about redemption -- about how people suffer incredible tragedy but find ways to carry on with the support of those who love them; about how souls can heal eventually although the hurt always remains.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almodovar's latest love story, July 24, 2010
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This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
There has not been a film made by the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar that I have not seen yet. His latest film "Broken Embraces" has beautiful Penelope Cruz in a lead female role that she carries on well as always. Although the story is unique, it definitely is a typical Almodovar movie in which he employs many of his ideas from the previous films. Homosexuality, obsessive love, revenge and femme fatale are themes his fans will recognise quickly throughout the film.

This is a story of two people who loved each other deeply and sincerely. Power, money and possesiveness got in a way of them being together and like most doomed relationships, this one was not to last. The mere impossibility of such love to exist makes this story so lovely and touching.

Must see movie, regardless if this is the first film by this director you have ever seen, or one out of many.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth embracing, April 6, 2010
This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
A film by Pedro Almodvar always offers something fresh with his unique sense of story and interesting plotlines. In Broken Embraces aka Los Abrazos Rotos in Spanish, the director in my opinion has fallen short. It does not offer anything new or exciting and seems to be a mixture of many other films but despite its flaws it is watchable if only once. Since it is a Almodvar film one expects yearning, loss, women and sex.......this film does not disappoint in any of those areas.
Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), a blind man has been living a quiet life. One day he hears the death of a wealthy tycoon and becomes upset. His assistant's son wants to know the reason so with great hesitation he starts telling his story set in the days when he used to be known as Mateo Blanco,a director who fell in love with the businessman's wife, Magdalena played by Penelope Cruz. He makes the tycoon furious and faces trouble and tragedy.
The film shifts back and forth but everything is neatly narrated and nothing is left unanswered. The acting by all the leads is memorable and the English subtitles are great. Color has been used very vividly and makes each scene a treat to watch. Almodvar's camera is in love with Penelope Cruz and she shines throughout the movie. It is not the best of Almodvar's movies but definitely a watch. Three stars. 4/1/10
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penelope, Audrey and Marilyn, September 8, 2010
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This review is from: Broken Embraces (DVD)
"Broken Embraces" marks Almodovar's first self homage, moving from the overwrought melodramas of Douglas Sirk to the equally over-the-top telenovella style of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", quoted here as a film within a film. Starring Penelope Cruz, the director's resident muse, in a performance of dazzling physical beauty and deeply wrought emotionalism, Almodovar's film visually links her to both Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, in the process making the case for Cruz as one of this point in film history's reigning icons.
Beginning with the positioning of a blinded filmmaker as his main character, Almodovar explores the themes of filmmaking, betrayal and parent/child relationships with vigor and imagination. After shout-outs to both Bunuel and Hitchcock, "Embraces" concludes with a son serving as his blinded father's eyes and father, mother and son working together to redeem both a family and a film. This is a filmmaker's and a film viewer's dream vision.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Almodóvar's best, but any Almodóvar is better than most of the rest, October 27, 2010
Pedro Almodóvar is a singular talent, with movies that could come only from his unique hand. This isn't the masterful stuff of Volver, Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) or All About My Mother, which are his apex in my opinion. But any Almodóvar outdistances most other offerings by a fair mile. "Los Abrazos Rotos" is certainly up to his very high standards.

Of course, any pairing between Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz is bound to be magic. It's no different here. Cruz is the world's top working actress, in no small part due to their collaboration, most notably in 'Volver,' which I think stands as the top film for both of them. Regular Almodóvar players Lluís Homar (Spain's Kelsey Grammer) and Blanca Portillo are here, too, as is my personal favorite, Lola Dueñas, a quirky beauty whose slightly dizzy smile and eyes are always elicit a yelp of delight from this viewer. The only problem here is that there's not enough of her. She puts in only a cameo as a lip reader.

Speaking of cameos, Spanish beauty Kira Miró puts in an indelible one at the outset of the film. [She's not missable.] It got me thinking about a similar role she had in The Perfect Crime (El Crimen Perfecto), Álex de la Iglesia mostly unseen dark comedic masterpiece. What a country Spain is for film! If there's a Film Quality Per Capita Index (I'm inventing it), Spain tops the league table or maybe shares it with Israel.

But back to Almodóvar: true aficionados of the man's work will be thrilled to see the 'movie within a movie' slowly develop into - ta da! - a facsimile of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, complete with sleeping pills in the gazpacho. What a great, sly touch this man possesses.
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Broken Embraces
Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodóvar (DVD - 2010)
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