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The Auteurs Daily: NYFF. Broken Embraces

The Auteurs Daily

Broken Embraces

As the New York Film Festival closes tonight with Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces, I should note that there's still a handful of entries on films screened at this year's event in the works and that very nearly every entry indexed here is still being updated and will carry on being updated for... as long as it takes.

"Thanks to an unnecessary framing device," begins Henry Stewart in the L Magazine, "Broken Embraces is essentially two movies: one, the sort of brightly colored melodrama we've come to expect from Pedro Almodóvar; the other, a neo-homage to the Los Angeles noir. The film toggles between the telenovelic and the quasi-Lynchian; would that Almodóvar had dedicated himself solely to the latter."

For Nick Schager, writing in Slant, the film "encases its old-hat tropes under a superficially stunning veneer. After the poignant genre mix-and-matching of Volver, such shallowness is more than a tad dispiriting, with his melodramatic tale of love, betrayal, role-playing, and the cinema's ever-present gaze proving at once formally gorgeous and inescapably thin."

It's "a moebius strip of film, a cinephilic helix twisting, doubling and reflecting upon itself with recursive bravado," writes Michael Guillén. "Yet, as imaginative as the film is in concept - and it does make its audience work - it evades any singular pleasure and fractures into narrative shards, each intriguing on their own but not necessarily satisfactory as a whole. Pleasurable enough simply for being an Almodóvar film, it's nevertheless a minor (though always welcome) contribution to his ongoing oeuvre."

"Since the triumphant All About My Mother, Pedro Almodóvar has spent the last 10 years making middlebrow melodramas and noirs," writes Martin Tsai in the Critic's Notebook. This time around, "one has to wonder why Mr Almodóvar has to let his penchant for melodrama ruin a well executed noir."

"It's hard to dislike one of his pictures, especially one where his vivacious good luck charm, Penélope Cruz, wears a bunch of wigs and outfits and has a ball in the movie-within-the-movie, which is a lot like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Bob Cashill for Popdose: "Trouble is, you'll want to stay in that movie, or on the beaches of the volcanic island locale of Lanzarote, rather than spend the excessive time given over to its blinded director-turned-writer (Lluís Homar). The somewhat-noir, sort of-comic film has its compensations, but they're spread a bit thin over 128 minutes."

James Hansen: "My ambivalence towards Almodóvar post-All About My Mother turns into downright dislike with this new work."

"Here's a filmmaker who can make a half-decent film in his sleep. So why does Broken Embraces feel like Almodóvar settling for something less?" asks Ed Champion, who's got a recording of the press conference for you.

Ingrid Sischy profiles Cruz for Vanity Fair, where'll you'll also find an accompanying portfolio.

Earlier: The trades' takes from the film's run in Spain in March; and reviews from Cannes.

Updates: "Broken Embraces is an auteurist stumble, the sort of film that reveals its maker's preoccupations a little too obviously and exposes his shortcomings a little too clearly," writes Chris Wisniewski in Reverse Shot. "It would be disingenuous grandstanding of me to label the movie an out-and-out disaster (too much intelligence and craft went into it), but it continues a downward trend in Almodóvar's output that is all the more dispiriting after the creative zenith of All About My Mother."

"Broken Embraces fails to connect on an emotional level," writes Marcy Dermansky, and what's more, "As a comedy, Broken Embraces is not particularly successful either.... And yet..."

Update, 10/15: Anne Helen Petersen comments on the Vanity Fair piece: "The problem is not with Cruz: she's answering the questions in the best way she knows how.  It's the way that the author (Ingrid Sischy, longtime editor-in-chief of Interview magazine) and the magazine collaborate to make the profile as boring as possible."

Update, 10/19: Acquarello comes out strong for this one: "Ingeniously constructed as parallel metafilms... Pedro Almodóvar's wry, multivalent, and voluptuous Broken Embraces is also a poignant rumination on grief, guilt, and loss."

Update, 10/31: Mark Harris profiles Almodóvar and Cruz for the New York Times.

NYFF 09: Index; full coverage.

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