Monday, December 21, 2009

Big Hugs



I may have hinted at it earlier, but come the next few weeks of December and well into the new year, I will be talking about my cinematic experiences a bit more often. Good movies are flowing through theaters, or at least are supposed to be. I will probably go strong in this manner straight through to the end of "awards season," and it is then that I, once again, will become utterly jaded and go back to my March-November rules about going to movies: foreign and documentary ONLY! With the exception of Woody Allen. And Kate Winslet. And...



So I tried not to get too hyped up about Pedro Almodovar's new film, "Broken Embraces." I watched no trailers, read no reviews, and limited my exposure to one article in The New York Times way back about the filmmaker and his muse, Penelope Cruz...



Nice rhyme. I know, thanks! And what a muse she is. Man, he loves her. But who wouldn't. She is beautiful, funny, and, let's face it, she is a star! She is a delicate creature who owns the room in which she finds herself, or rather, puts herself. In complete control, she encompasses the screen with that same magnetic presence characteristic of the greats: Hepburn #1 and Hepburn #2, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren. I don't mean to be going gaga (oooh, Gaga...) for Penelope, but she nails the character in this film the way she did in "Volver" and the way she did in Woody Allen's "Vicky Christina Barcelona."

Cynics, romantics, and everyone in between: don't miss "Broken Embraces." I wanted to escape into something yesterday afternoon. By all means, I do not mean I wanted to tune out. Life's too short to venture out in the rain, pay $10 and do something that I can do from my couch. I wanted to be carried away to that "other" world that is a fabulous film. And I was. The landscape of an Almodovar film is like the ocean: it is mysteriously beautiful on the outside, but once you dive in, there are treasures, both surprising and haunting, and buried deep within. And they appear, illuminated, like a revelation.

The film surprised me in how a film-maker can be both modest and self-reflexive at the same time. On the other hand, it did not surprise me that, yet again, Almodovar gets close to the bottom of human beings and their nature of imperfection. The relationships he shows prosper not from cliches but from the unique way we find one another. Characters in an Almodovar film lean askew from their downfalls and weakness and it is for this reason that they stumble into, over, and upon one another. Even the most beautiful actress (Penelope) can be worn ragged by destruction, humiliation, temptation. But she is human. You can see it in her eyes.

I cherish the way this story is told, frame by frame but judge for yourself and enjoy. Sure there were problematic elements to the film, but it's a great one in a year a bad ones, which makes it lovely and memorable. I feel so often I walk out of a film and forget about it the next day. Perhaps that's the intention: to transport temporarily and let people get on. But film is an art and when it is excellent and well-made, it can be magical. I don't mean to be negative toward other films, but you know what I mean. Sometimes those feelings you get in your seat (some of euphoria, some of suspense) are strong enough to last beyond the theater. Ideally they will lift off the screen and into your head, and from there, make their way into your own work or art. One medium to the next, inspiration has the power to be boundless (if you will let it). Translation doesn't have to be limited to subtitles.

One final comment slash suggestion. And it's only a suggestion, not a requirement. Remember way back a few weeks when I also went gaga over "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown?" If not, review. I recommend watching that film (it's 80 minutes, no biggie) before heading out to see "Embraces." I won't say why, but having recently watched the 80's romp, I felt further engaged with "Embraces." Engaged in Embraces. Sounds like the perfect romantic comedy. Except Almodovar's isn't. Like many films this year, it's genre-less and leaves the interpreting up to you: the audience. Me: still pondering how films are made. "Broken Embraces:" ambiguous yet trustworthy. Like a verse that leaves you breathless...

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