Friday, February 12, 2010

Film #6 of 2010

Title: Abrazos Rotos
Year: 2009

Almodovar's directing in this film is a work of a beauty. The cinematography and music, by Rodrigo Prieto and Alberto Iglesias respectively, are also impeccably realized. What I found somewhat dissatisfying about the film as a whole was the script.

What? you ask. You think it's a good idea to burden an Almodovar film with high expectations on the simple level of storyline and plot? Not necessarily as a rule, no, but it is when his aesthetic is so clearly noirish (did you miss the red curtains in that shot?).

The story begins in tantalizing fashion, by following a related set of characters at two different timeframes, the narrative "present" and a period about a decade earlier. We know the past is being invoked to explain the present, but there's more cause-and-effect than that at work in the juxtaposition of scenes and character's choices. So far so good. Revelations are well-paced, the twists make sense and the dark emotional tone is believably depicted. But during the third act, when everything should be coming together, two things go wrong: (1) A key event is attributed to pure happenstance. Almost the entire narrative structure, therefore, ultimately relies on blind chance, rendering the complex and obsessive psychological arcs almost pointless (2) There's a tonal change during the last few scenes that asks us to buy in to a change in the protagonist's focus we haven't really seen enough evidence to believe.

The other thing I wasn't necessarily thrilled about was the acting. Cruz is fine, though this role doesn't appear to offer much new for her, and José Luis Gómez as Ernesto Martel is memorable. But some of the supporting cast doesn't do as well.

All of which is a shame. This could have been tremendous, but ended up being merely technically dazzling and somewhat undercooked instead.
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