penelope cruz in almodovar’s los abrazos rotos

this new pedro almodovar film is not my favorite, but it is funny and physical and moody and beautiful and ironic and sexy and melodramatic, like most of his films.  volver i absolutely loved and i enjoyed all about my mother very much, too (see also the non-cruz:  live flesh, tie me up tie me down, women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, talk to her, bad education) so i had pretty high hopes for this next endeavor between the spanish film-maker and his so-called muse of several years now.  a film within a film, largely revolving around the plight(s) of penelope cruz, who sells herself to her wealthy boss in a moment of weakness during her father’s decline with cancer, then stumbles her way into a writer/director’s film on the merits of her beauty rather than her acting chops thinking she’s found her way out but seals her tragic fate, instead.  pretty predictably, her financial backer and jailer finds about the affair she’s begun with the director and violence and betrayal ensues for the rest of the film, but the first part of the film is full of all the tongue-in-cheek and intimate trademarks of almodovar’s oeuvre.

the film opens with the director/protagonist (now blind) asking home a beatiful young woman to read him the paper and seamlessly maneuvering her into sex, later we see him brainstorming with his young male assistant about a vampire love-story and the limitations of the erotic life of the vampire-girl/human-boy inspired by a give blood poster on their morning walk, we see penelope preening, excited and hamming it up in her pursuit of landing the role, and the infamous lovemaking scene with cruz and her old benefactor, with both of them wrapped under a white sheet reminiscent of magritte’s famous painting of the lovers, and there’s the complicated, layered banter between the director and his agent, the secret of their relationship slowly revealed by the end of the film. almodovar’s films are sometimes called guilty pleasures and i found this one to be especially so, heavily in the soap opera vein, but much funnier and self-effacing and subversive than any you’d see on this side of the ocean.  the acting wasn’t exceptionally affecting but it is still quite entertaining, lush and spirited, though now i just want to watch volver again.

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