Broken Embraces, a stylish fusion of melodrama and noir, had the unmistakable stamp of Almodóvar – vibrant colour palettes of the visual stylist, string of meta and self-referential elements, and meditation on a multitude of themes (obsessive passion bordering on insanity, voyeurism, homophobia, guilt, and, not least, the medium of cinema itself). While influences of three cinematic masterpieces, viz. Buñuel’s El, Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Powell’s Peeping Tom, were most prominent, direct nods to classic noirs also abounded – Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows starring the irresistible Jeanne Moreau, Viscontini’s Ossessione, Jules Dassin, etc. Mateo (Lluís Homar), a former filmmaker who became a scriptwriter with the phony alias of Harry Caine after losing his eyesight many years back, and taken care of by his agent and former lover Judit (Blanca Portillo), reminisces on an episode he’s never escaped from upon being informed that notorious Chilean millionaire Ernesto Martel (played with sinister deadpan by José Luis Gómez) has died. The common link between them was the stunning and alluring Lena (a remarkable and ravishing Penélope Cruz), an ex-call-girl who’s become the mistress and subject of dangerous obsession for Ernesto. Upon learning of her decision to act in a movie being made by Mateo, he finances it in order to have full control on production, including using his son (Rubén Ochandiano), whose sexuality he despises, to spy on Lena with his camera. When Mateo begins a sizzling affair with Lena, things, therefore, take an expectedly bad turn for all. Ironically, the film within the film turns out to be a rehashed version of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, with Almodóvar’s former muse (Carmen Maura) replaced with his then current one.
Director: Pedro Almodovar