Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos)
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
Revisiting Broken Embraces
is like getting together with an old friend who you didn’t
realize you missed so much until you reunited. And watching
it on Blu-Ray made it a better experience than seeing
it in its initial run on the big screen (a rare thing)
because of the high expectations any Almodovar film brings
with it the first time around and because the transfer
is so exquisite.
Pedro Almodovar’s film oeuvre is highly personal.
The sheer pleasure one derives from experiencing an Almodovar
‘pelicula’ is in knowing the world you are
about to abandon yourself to is a fresh and invigoratingly
novel one-- a celluloid treasure trove of images and dialogue
that are specific to the auteur. Like the works of Fellini,
Bergman and von Trier, appreciating Almodovar is allowing
his work to wash over you like waves on a beach. His technologically
savvy, splendiferously colorful visual feast caressing
you. His pretentiously jaw-dropping plot reveals slamming
you. The sheer lunacy of it all deviously carrying you
out to sea—before you even realize it’s happening.
Broken Embraces is the helmer’s 17th feature
and, like many of his best films, deals with love, lust,
betrayal and the wonderful insane world of filmmaking.
And like much of Woody Allen’s best work, is also
a valentine to films—and, running the risk of hubris,
Almodovar films, in particular.
Blind screenwriter Harry Caine (Lluis Homar of Bad
Education) used to also double as celebrated screen
director Mateo Blanco, that is until his sight was taken
from, him fourteen years earlier, in a tragic auto accident.
Harry must now write with the aid of handsome young Diego
(Tamar Novas), who is the son of his former production
manager Judit (Blanca Portillo). The death of a former
producer and the appearance of a mysterious gay guy calling
himself Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano) rattles Harry and when
Diego almost dies of a drug overdose, Harry decides to
revisit the haunting past that has web-like implications
for each and every character.
The story moves back and forth up to this point but now
grounds itself in the past for a while as we witness Harry/Mateo
making his film Girls and Suitcases, and falling
in love with the exquisitely gorgeous and cine-chameleon-like
Lena (Penelope Cruz). Unfortunately for the lovers, Lena
is in a relationship with elderly producer Ernesto Martel
(Jose Luis Gomez) who keeps a dangerously watchful eye
on her every move.
The maze-like plot twists and splashes until the consequences
of this ill-fated romance are fully revealed as only Almodovar
can reveal them.
Almodovar master blends fifties noir, melodrama, comedy
and the suspense/thriller to give us a rich, dazzling
and spellbinding homage to many a 50s and 60s picture
(Sirk, Rossellini and many more), while Cruz evokes Audrey
Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergman.
Cruz continues to prove she is an acting force. As Lena
she is elusive and fascinating. It’s a lovely and
Almodovar reworks his own gem, Women of the Verge
of a Nervous Breakdown and weaves it into Broken
Embraces in a clever and charming way. Connoisseurs
of the director’s body of work are given a cherry-on-the-film-cake
feeling of joy that provides deeper meaning to the work
and reveal his mad love for the art form.
The production values dazzle. Rodrigo
Prieto’s camera work is particularly sumptuous and
the extreme close-ups of Cruz are alluring and enticing.
And as mentioned earlier, thre transfer pops magnificently.
His dazzling visual style is the reason for Blu-Ray discs!
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is
The film’s audio is presented in its original Spanish
on a six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD MA soundtrack.
Fun extras include: 12 minutes of enjoyable "Deleted
Scenes"; a lunatic short starring Carmen Machi titled
"The Cannibalistic Councillor"; a 6-minute chat
with Cruz (should have been much longer); Pedro Directs
Penelope—which is 6 short minutes of just that,
a way-too short New York Film Festival snippet and the
More would have been appreciated but
the visual allure of the film is enough to sustain this
Daniel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard
Written by: Michael
Tolkin and Anthony Minghella
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis; Marion Cotillard; Penélope
Cruz; Sophia Loren; Nicole Kidman; Judi Dench; Kate Hudson;
and Stacy Ferguson (Fergie)
Reviewed by Frank
I am in a minority, at least in this
country, but I feel that Nine is a better film
than Chicago. And watching it again on DVD I
was taken with how well executed the film really is. I
was also alerted to some of the flaws that probably led
the haters to hate so vehemently.
Based on the stage musical that was
based on the Federico Fellini film masterpiece 8 1/2
(Otto e’ Mezza), Nine is set in 1960s Roma
and follows one auteur on the verge of a breakdown as
he tries to balance the women in his life while trying
to figure out how to say something new in his work.
Nine is a dazzling, mesmerizing
musical homage to Fellini and to all artists who have
trouble living in the real world because his/her bubble
world are where they truly feel alive. Daniel Day-Lewis’
remarkable performance (another intrepid immersion for
him) as the tortured Guido Contini anchors the work while
the sensational Marion Cotillard leads the supporting
cast of lovelies as Guido’s loyal wife Luisa. Cotillard’s
performance should have been Oscar nominated and would
have been were it not for the Weinstein Company erroneously
deciding she should be placed in the lead category. Penelope
Cruz was justly nominated for her role as Carla, Guido’s
Dame Judi Dench pops in and out as Guido’s
confidant, cleverly quipping about. Nicole Kidman portrays
Claudia, his muse. Kate Hudson (surprisingly good) and
the great Sophia Loren round out the thrilling cast.
Since this is a musical let’s
get to it:
Daniel Day Lewis is not only a believable
Italian but also a decent singer, handling his two numbers
very well. Cotillard kills both her songs—especially
the newly penned and Oscar nommed, “Take It All,”
a physical and psychological strip-tease.
Cruz sizzles in her sultry “A
Call from the Vatican.” And Hudson rock/pops it
out with “Cinema Italiano.” Loren’s
“Guarda La Luna” is the most disappointing
number…it just lays there (originally the mother
sings the gorgeous title song but Loren did not have the
vocal chops to deliver it so they wrote something less
By far the best moment in the film is
Fergie’s tour de force “Be Italian.”
It makes the viewer long for more Fergie.
As a matter of fact, my main complaint
about Nine is there wasn’t enough of it.
Not enough Kidman. Not enough Fergie. Definitely not enough
Loren. Never enough Cotillard. And while we’re on
the subject of what the film lacks…
The movie could have been more psychologically
complex (perhaps if the market research-happy Harvey wasn’t
the producer) and should have been longer and included
more musical numbers (see Harvey again). In addition,
Marshall does copy a lot of what worked for Chicago,
but he is smart enough to appropriate the best of his
As it stands, Nine is a fascinating
tale of a megalomaniacal, sex-obsessed man (could have
been ripped from the 2010 headlines) who is searching
for inspiration…and it’s a damn good one!
The production values are top notch
across the boards.
The anamorphic widescreen presentation
(2.35:1 aspect ratio) rocks with the flashy musical numbers
coming alive and the gorgeous country of Italy popping
spectacularly. I can only imagine what the Blu-Ray must
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is crisp
and aurally exciting. Crank it up and enjoy!
The Extras seem like a lot but in the end, it’s
a very slim offering for such a whopper of a film.
The feature length audio commentary
with Marshall and producer John DeLuca is a treat and
the guys go into technical detail about all aspects as
well as providing background about bringing the film to
There are seven featurettes, the longest
being “The Women of Nine,” at 10 minutes.
There are brief segments on Daniel Day Lewis, Marshall,
the Dancers, choreographers and three music videos as
well as an 8-minute behind-the-scenes look at the film.
Most of these are strictly puff pieces where everyone
raves about everyone else and how they all got along!
The Blu-Ray has a lengthy Q & A
with the cast and director but the DVD does not.
Also Marshall mentioned a cut musical
moment, “Being with You,” sung by Guido and
featuring Carla, Luisa and Claudia. No sign of it here.
Perhaps a special edition is being planned. One can only
Years from now, I believe this
film will get the recognition it deserves. This DVD should
help make folks aware of just how good the movie is.