Volume 22, Number 29 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 27 - December 3, 2009
Koch on Film
BY Ed Koch
“Broken Embraces” (-)
Two cult directors whose films I look forward to seeing are Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar. I have seen every Allen film, and even when a picture is only mediocre, I always find something intriguing and enjoyable about it. Not so with all of Almodovar’s films. While I haven’t watched every one, I make an effort to see his pictures even when they receive less than passing grades from other reviewers. On several occasions, I felt disappointed when the picture ended and upset that I had wasted time seeing it. This is one such film which, in my opinion, may be his worst.
Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), previously known as Mateo, is a screenwriter and former director who was blinded in a car accident years earlier. He is cared for by a former film assistant, Judit (Blanca Portillo), and her son, Diego (Tamar Novas). When we meet Harry, he is having a romantic interlude with a woman he just met. Judit enters his apartment and is upset to find the young woman with him. We later learn that he was once in love with Judit and that she still cares for him. But the real love of the director is Lena (Penelope Cruz), who bares her buxom bosom in the film. The complication is that Lena is the mistress of Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez), a very rich man who in exchange for her sexual favors is financing Mateo’s movie.
Much more is involved, some of which is totally ridiculous and unbelievable. I was never moved by the plight of any of the characters, nor did I think the film provided the satire normally associated with Almodovar. There were great possibilities with this film that were not fulfilled. Nevertheless, there was applause when it ended, undoubtedly by other Almodovar devotees in the audience who found something in the movie to cheer about.
HS said: “My standards must be somewhat lower; I liked the movie. The plot was ridiculous and contrived, of course, just like operas. Penelope Cruz is stunning and was shown to best advantage. The scenery in Spain was striking; no rain fell. The lesson: if you sell your soul to the Devil, you must give him his due.”
Rated R; 1 hour, 45 minutes (in Spanish, with English subtitles); at Landmark Sunshine Cinema (143 East Houston Street). For screening times, call 212-777-3456 x687.