1 May 2013 | murtaza_mma
A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Pedro Almodóvar's homage to film-making
Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces (2009) is a strange yet intriguing work of cinema. A heartbreaking tale of love, Broken Embraces highlight's the Spanish filmmaker's love for filmmaking as well the medium, which is underlined by the following line spoken by the movie's protagonist: "No, what matters is to finish it. Films have to be finished, even if you do it blindly." Almodóvar is not the first filmmaker to pay homage to cinema. Time and time again, filmmakers have used their films to express their overwhelming love for the medium: be it Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Giuseppe Tornatore, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Altman, or Martin Scorsese.
Broken Embraces (2009) is far from being a masterpiece. In fact, it's not even Almodóvar's best film, but it does have its moments that are enough to make it worthy of a watch. Almodóvar seems to have perfected his unique style by borrowing bits and pieces from the masters of cinema. Those who have followed Alfred Hitchcock's body of work closely would know that sex and humor were two of his major elements. And Almodóvar, a great fan of the Master of Suspense, too relies heavily on these two powerful elements often blending them with an equally potent weapon: social commentary. And like Hitchcock, Almodóvar loves to revisit his old works in an effort to further refine his quaint yet effective ideas. In fact, it is not very difficult for the keen-eyed viewers to spot the recurring patterns in Pedro Almodóvar's films, just like in Hitchcock's. And Broken Embraces is no different in this regard with the ever so ambitious Almodóvar trying to borrow and improvise upon certain ideas from his breakthrough film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988).
While the comparisons between Hitchcock and Almodóvar are endless, one similarity that just cannot be overlooked is their insatiable love for technical mastery. There is a brilliant sequence in Broken Embraces that that underlines the remarkable quality of editing (and technical excellence) in Almodóvar's films. In the very scene, a rotating CD can be seen fading into a cylindrical staircase as the movie's protagonist climbs down the stairs. The scene is highly reminiscent of the editing techniques employed by Hitchcock in one of his early masterpieces: Sabotage (1936).
Overall, Broken Embraces, at best, serves to be a guilty pleasure. Almodóvar's obsession to experiment with his old ideas in trying to embed them into the new ones ends up overloading the film with at least one excessive plot line. The best ways to savor Broken Embraces is to either treat it as a homage to filmmaking or to look upon it as a exercise in style. Regardless of the excesses, Broken Embraces will prove to be a great film viewing experience for Almodóvar fans and also for those who understand and appreciate powerful world cinema. 7/10
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