Wednesday, February 04, 2009

We Can't Wait #19 Broken Embraces

Directed by ALMODOVAR
Starring Penélope Cruz, Lola Dueñas, Chus Lampreave and Blanca Portillo from Volver. Plus: José Luis Gómez, Rossy de Palma (yay!) and Rubén Ochandiano
Synopsis The plot details of this contemporary thriller are being kept secret so the official synopsis is bare bones: "Fourteen years after having an accident that left him blind, a writer and filmmaker remembers the circumstances that surrounded him and the woman that he loved".
Brought to you by El Deseo & Sony Pictures Classics
Expected Release Date November (that's the Almodóvar slot)

Nathaniel: Pedro (also known as "The Greatest Living Film Director") makes sensational cinema and I love that he's been on this Hitchcock groove lately -- think of that great score for Volver or the threatening underlay of Bad Education. He promises this one is funny, too.

Whitney: The first Almodóvar I saw was Talk to Her, and I've felt uncomfortable with him ever since. There was something about that rape-a-coma-victim thing that stuck with me in a bad way. That's not to say that his films aren't pretty amazing, I just look forward to them in the same way you look forward to going to the gynecologist: you're glad you're going to get some substantial - perhaps needed - treatment, but you're trying to put it off for as long as possible.

Nathaniel: A ringing endorsement!

Joe: I'm fairly certain I can't top the Almodóvar-as-gyno-appointment metaphor, and I'm tempted to just leave it at that. As it stands, it feel weird to be merely a casual appreciator of Almodóvar's movies as opposed to a rabid fan, because it seems like that's just now how it's done. But I've been a huge fan of the Hitchcockian touches as of late, too, and as long as clever, artful comedies remain a rarity, I'll treasure weird old Pedro.

JA: Yeah, I've been racking my brain all day, trying to figure out if that makes Penny Cruz the stirrups, the forceps, the... other things (it's terrible when the first reference one comes up with for gynecology is Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, no?). Speaking of auteurs with wacko fascinations! I've thoroughly enjoyed Pedro's recent renaissance, and all the associated Hitchcockian accoutrements, too. I hope he dials it up to 11 and pulls a De Palma type Hitch "homage"... if Penny doesn't wear a blonde wig at some point, I might find myself very disappointed.

Joe: So it's come to referring to her as "Penny" now, in some "we love your newfound discovery of talent so much we want to be on not only first-name but nickname basis" stab at familiarity now? What happened to the good old days when she gleefully sucked in mainstream Hollywood fare and we could all be content in the knowledge that she would be the worst thing in any given movie? Simpler times, man. Post-Volver America freaks me out.

Fox: First, Nathaniel got the "Greatest Living Film Director" wrong,.. that would be Brian De Palma. But to not take anything away from Almodóvar - a director I really admire -- I'll steer this away from any possible "my daddy is bigger than your daddy" bickering -- I hope it's funny. I prefer the more absurd comedies of his to the more recent serious turns. True, Talk to Her and Bad Education could be considered dark comedies, but before Volver, the last film of his I liked was Live Flesh. I think Pedro came off as bitter in his 00's work prior to Volver, and I don't think that suits him, or, at least he hasn't figured out how to wrangle that in yet.

Oh, and yay to Penélope. Remember the above the kitchen sink shot in Volver? Talk about your Psycho-sexual imagery with that phallic knife that she's give a scrub to.

Nathaniel: How about you, reader? Anxious for another round with "P & P"?

In case you missed any entries they went like so...
We Can't Wait:
#1 Inglourious Basterds, #2 Where the Wild Things Are, #3 Fantastic Mr. Fox,
#4 Avatar, #5 Bright Star, #6 Shutter Island, #7 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
#8 Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, #9 Nailed,
#10 Taking Woodstock,
#11 Watchmen, #12 The Hurt Locker, #13 The Road, #14 The Tree of Life
#15 Away We Go, #16 500 Days of Summer, #17 Drag Me To Hell,
#18 Whatever Works, #19 Broken Embraces, #20 Nine (the musical)
intro (orphans -didn't make group list)



Dave said...

Seeing those collated "Penny in Pedro" pictures reminds me how much I've come to adore All About My Mother. I was underwhelmed the first time I saw it but we watched it again for my course and it's just so... enveloping. (I'm not sure how else to describe it.) And Penelope is fantastic in it too.

Although nothing beats her (and her breasts) in Volver. Except maybe Broken Embraces, which I will mention if just to be on-topic. Sounds like it might be more phallo-centric than usual.

Anonymous said...

i can't believe this was only #19

Garen said...

I am uncontrollably excited for this film. I've seen all of Almodovar's most recent films (AAMM on) and Volver is my favorite. I have Flower of my Secret and Live Flesh from Netflix sitting on my dresser. Which does everyone prefer and which should I watch first?

I am also surprised that this is only #19.


well the reason i do group things is so that it won't be so predictable. cuz you know if it was just my list it'd be Pedro & musicals and anything starring Pfeiffer at the top ;)

NicksFlickPicks said...

I wonder if the other discussants are frenemies enough to vote Amelia really, really high.

I am totally with Joe on Almodóvar: I almost always like/admire but I rarely love. Talk to Her was the huge exception. Flower of My Secret sort of crept up on me after a so-so start. What Have I Done to Deserve This? is by far my favorite early Pedro, and Live Flesh is pretty high up there for the later stuff.

BeRightBack said...

Volver isn't really my favorite Almadovar, though I did enjoy it and especially Penelope Cruz (I refuse the rhetoric of false intimacy! For now!) in it. I even like Talk to Her better, and I saw it on a date! That resulted in sexytimes, which is kind of strange in retrospect! Anyway, I'm just about as excited as person can get about this film, the end.

Garen: Live Flesh Live Flesh Live Flesh!

BeRightBack said...

BRB: If you love him so much, why can't you freakin' spell his name? "Almodóvar," dammit!

Anonymous said...

I admire him too but can't say i would put Almodovar anyway near the "greatest living director" title. no way. Probably Scorsese for my money but if we're only talking more recently he's probably a bit past 5ish. Fincher, Coen Bros, Nolan, and either Wes or PT. Anderson need consideration in Almodovar's generation


i really msut see LIVE FLESH again because it's the last one i didn't "love" though I liked it and I certainly liked Javier Bardem in it.


Casey... i hear you but i think if you stack up Pedro's last 4

all about my mother
talk to her
bad education

to anyone else's last 4 they're all gonna come up lacking ;) (with the exception of possibly PT Anderson) so if his hot streak continues...

ZiZo said...

Oh! The Synopsis is my translation that I sent you Nat! yey! hehehe

Ben said...

Whoa... didn't know there would be so many mixed feelings on Pedro. Talk to Her is a film that has definitely grown on me. I liked it quite a bit when I first saw it, but now I LOVE it- one of my favorite movies. Also love All About My Mother and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

DavidC said...

I think this movie is in my top 5 or so for next year. Volver was the first Almodovar I saw in the theatre. I had seen everything since AAMM on DVD, but seeing an Almodovar on the big screen was amazing. I'm still entranced by that shot of the paper towel soaking up the blood. I think one of the things I love about him is the imagery in his movies. Also, the man loves color which makes me love him. He sure has an eye, that one.

Oh, and Penelope! Dear Penelope! I can't wait. I'm also so glad that this year she showed us she can wow us without Almodovar, and in English too. I can't wait. Simply can't wait.

Guy Lodge said...

#19? Are you kidding? This is my number one most anticipated film of the year bar none.

Some stupid part of me is sort of hoping Cruz doesn't win this year for VCB so that she can win Best Actress next year for Broken Embraces, even though the smarter part of me knows that would never, EVER happen. My parts are at war, so to speak.

It's funny to think that a few years ago, I found Cruz one of the most vapid, irksome presences in the industry. If there was an Oscar for Most Improved Actor, she'd take it in a heartbeat.

Alex Constantin said...

I have Penelope on my Best Actress list for this... hope she lives up to my faith in her :P

as an European gay kid growing up with Todo sobre mi madre, I just have to say: an Almodovar without DRAG or TRANSSEXUALS or discussions about cock sucking is just... brutal.

He did TALK TO HER for the Americans, cause too much gay is too much for the USA. and after that he went back to his best with Mala Education. but after, back to the Americans with Volver. So, I would have really needed a gay one for now.

whitney said...

Look! Even Almodovar's camera looks like some kind of twisted lady-parts-examining machine!

Glenn said...

Oh god, how did I forget this title?!? aah!


whitney -ha!

jahs34 said...

I think i agree with the best living director, tho PTA is right there too, i haven't seen any of his old films nor Volver, but Live Flesh, All About My Mother, Talk to Her and Bad Education are amazing movies. Especially the first and the last.

Anonymous said...

Nat, people read this blog because they want to know what YOU think!
If we cared what those other people thought we would read their blog.

Charlus said...

Nathan, I concur with all the others who find it difficult to believe Los abrazos rotos is only at #19. Have a look at this bit from the English-language version (the Spanish is better, of course, but the English is not bad) of Almodóvar’s blog (a lot of which has to do with the making of Broken Embraces). I’ve been reading it since last year, and it’s enough to demonstrate why he is the best living writer-director. The sex and the color and the dark humor are all well and good, but he and his films are consumed with writing and books; more than a bibliophile, he is almost a bibliomaniac. Much as I like the work of some of the other “big daddies” previously mentioned, no one can touch or top Almodóvar on this point.


anons... i appreciate your loves of Nine and Broken Embraces but be nice to the guests.

i like to do group activities from time to time. it keeps it fun for me and if it's not fun for me... trust me, it won't be fun for you reading.

Unknown said...

Yay. Can't wait. Have only seen two Almodover's but man, is he great (AAMM & Volver). AAMM is defintley th best. Now, i've only got Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

November, that seems like months away!

Anonymous said...

Also very much looking forward to this, Volver was best of 2006 for me, I think.And if I remember correctly from Almodovar's blog, Penelope will indeed wear a blonde wig in the movie:)

Garen said...

I want nothing more in life than to see Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It's not available on Netflix. I'm in Boston and this past summer there was an Almodovar-fest at a theater near me and WonVoaNB was shown one night, but I was infuriatingly out of town. I basically cried.

How can I see this movie? Suggestions? I keep asking for feedback in my comments, haha. Apparently I'm feeling superneedy today.

Unknown said...

Surely there's a brick-and-mortar video store in Boston with a copy? Or perhaps a public library? If not, perhaps you should switch to GreenCine for a month?

Live Flesh is my own favorite Almodovar too. The only one of his last four films I've loved unreservedly has been Talk To Her, though All About My Mother comes damn close.


wow, all these fans of live flesh. who knew?

Garen women on the verge... is sublime. GAZPACHO! so find it. Isn't it part of the Almodovar box set - 6 films from sony pictures classics? i had no idea Netflix didn't have it. How weird.

Anonymous said...

Live Flesh is atrocious. Along with Kika, Matador, Laberinto de pasiones and Bad Education, it is one of his worst films. Why don't you start with some truly good Almodóvar and watch What have I done to deserve this? and Wome on the verge of a nerveous breakdown? Besides, Nathaniel, I have been reading your blog for years and it deeply saddens me seeing that you accept as one of your collaborators someone who thinks that Brian de Palma is the best director alive, when everybody knows that this honor goes to Hou Hsiao-Hsien.


wait -- you're an Almodovar "true fan" and you think four of his movies are "atrocious?"


i think de Palma is hit and miss myself but i have no qualms against his fans for one thing he's very cinematic, so even when he's off he's interesting.

i'm a fan of Black Dahlia as you know.

so there! ;)

Anonymous said...

Altho I too am a little shocked at BE coming in at #19 - it has only made me more anxious for the rest of the series... 18 more films more interesting than these two - yikes!

I am with Nathaniel on 'live flesh' tho... I don't think it comes close to Pedro's four (hopefully 5) most recent wonders.


Anonymous said...

if Transformers 2 or Wolverine end up on this list I cry foul!

Glenn Dunks said...

Ugh. I hate anonymous people sometimes.

Fox said...

Besides, Nathaniel, I have been reading your blog for years and it deeply saddens me seeing that you accept as one of your collaborators someone who thinks that Brian de Palma is the best director alive, when everybody knows that this honor goes to Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Wow. Haha. I'm sorry that our "collaboration" has given you such a sour note, Nathaniel. Does this mean you won't be hosting DePalma Month in March anymore??? :(

I shudder to think what everyone is going to think about our # 18 pick, Transform... oops, I wasn't supposed to let that out of the bad, was I??!?

Fox said...

BTW... people looking for Live Flesh on DVD, it's available in that Viva Pedro box set. I know not ALL of the video stores will carry that, but many of the locally owned ones will.

Fox said...


Women on the Verge is also in that box set. That is probably my favorite of Pedros.

I would also recommend seeing Matador. It's demented, but so our many of us, so...

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to be Spanish right now!!! I'll probably see this around March!!!

I can't believe that this is only #19 when films like Nine and Up are already done with...
I mean, Rossy de Palma is in this movie!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Bad Education" and "Volver" were both hypnotic viewing experiences, I confess these are the only Almodovar movies I've seen. I love that his movies are singularly his own, never seen a movie quite like these two. The characters, dialogue and visual style are so rich, detailed but unique to either one. Based on these two I'm very impatiently waiting for this one to hit the Globe. Am excited to see P.Cruz in a movie, which I never thought possible.

Netflix is FINALLY becoming a reality for me and Almodovar is definitely on my DIRECTORS list, so does anyone have any suggestions on what to start with? I definitely want to check out his earlier work if they're even close in quality of these two gems.

Slayton said...

Lluis Homar is the male lead.

Anonymous said...

I find it surprising the love for Live Flesh, too. As far as I can remember he had some casting problems and as a result Liberto Rabal was a last moment choice. For me, the couple Rabal-Francesca (look at my Pfeiffer-like lips) Neri didn't work and I don't think even Bardem was at his best.

And that's what worries me more about Broken Embraces, it's supposed to be as noir as Live Flesh and less comic than other ones. But still, I'm confident on the (quite likely) comic relief provided by the parts of Chus Lampreave and Rossy de Palma and the talent of Cruz who isn't (fortunately) Francesca Neri.

My favourite Almodóvars are:
- What Have I Done to Deserve This?
- Law of Desire
- Women on the Verge....
- All About my Mother
- Volver

I'd include Bad Education but I saw it as re-working on the same idea already shown in Law of Desire (as a kind of spin-off -prequel?- for Carmen Maura's and Eusebio Poncela's characters) and I think the acting in Law of Desire as a whole (ensemble) was much better than in Bad Education.*

And Talk to Her hasn't stayed with me as I expected it would.

That said, it's also suprising to see this one in this position. Will the first one be "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2: Straight to the Bone?" :)

*Wouldn't be great having a crossover with Daniel Giménez Cacho's character (Padre Manolo) and Philip Seymour Hoffman's Father Flynn in Doubt? No, that'd be probably an overdose of Catholic guilt. If using "overdose" and "Catholic guilt" in the same sentence isn't already redundant.

You-G said...

All I have to say is can it get any better? 18 more films more anticipated than Broken Embraces?

Anonymous said...

Partially related:

I've just found this clip of Cruz playing Pictionary with Ellen DeGeneres. It's funny.


wayne b He has a lot of gems but if you can start earlier and go semi-chronologically and watch his visuals get richer.

My favorites in roughly descending order are

01 Law of Desire
02 All About My Mother
03 Talk To Her
04 Volver
05 Women on the Verge...
06 Tie me up! Tie Me Down!
07 What Have I Done to Deserve This
08 Bad Education

and the other ones I either don't remember well enough or didn't like as much.

I have 4 left to see --i've never found Pepi, Luci, Bom :( which is the one i want to see most of the unseen

Anonymous said...

"All About My Mother" is definitely in my top 5 and based on that film alone I would run to the theatre to see anything he makes. I once scheduled a return flight from London to the USA for a day later in large part so I could see "Bad Education" in the movie theatres there rather than wait 6 months for it to be released in the US.

Bring on "Broken Embraces"!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Nate, you do have to watch "Live Flesh" again. I love it more every time I watch it. And for fun, you should watch "Live Flesh" and Hitchcock's "Rear Window" in the same day. Very interesting to say the least!

brian said...

whitney, nice gyno joke

Anonymous said...

greatest living director = terrence malick

Lucas Dantas said...

hahahaha... the gyno analogy was one of the best things i've read lately!!

pedro is on my hall of directors i'll always follow and worship, like woody allen and baz luhrmann. they're the kind i'll only take my word for an opinion. so i'll be freaking about "abrazos rotos" around its release date.

Brian Darr said...

Law of Desire is my other favorite along with Life Flesh. But I still have yet to see some biggies like Matador and What Have I Done To Deserve This

Catherine said...

Nathaniel, Pepi, Luci, Bom is really more than a curio that anything, you're not missing much.

How I love him, though. This is easily my most anticipated of next year.

Anonymous said...

NATHANIEL, thank you for taking the time to write out the list, I'm excited to watch them. Very first time I saw anything of Almodovar's was years ago on satellite, "Pepi, Luci Bom" was on at like four in the morning. Maybe it completely flew over my little then 14-yr old head but I remember not digging it, although it did help me realize my alternative sexuality. *giggles*, so I agree with CATHERINE, you're not missing much. The movie kinda killed Almodovar for me and I never watched anything of his until "Bad Education" was out on DVD. The scene where Gael Garcia Bernal lip-syncs to " Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" is burned into my psyche forever. Absolutely scorching! And after the masterwork that is Volver I have to give Almodovar a proper chance, the one I'm curious about is "Dark Secrets", I love when the cast of a movie is mostly female.