By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 19, 2009 at 9:37AM
"Cinema plays a very important role in all my films," Pedro Almodovar said in an essay on his latest film, "Abrazos Rotos," and its influences. "I don’t do it as a pupil revering those directors who have preceded him. I don’t make films 'in the style of'. When a director or a film appears in one of mine, it’s in a more active way than as a simple homage or a nod at the spectator."
indieWIRE published the essay, one of twelve written by Almodovar on "Rotos," which screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival today.
Eric Kohn wasn't entirely impressed by the film in his indieWIRE review today, noting that "Almodovar offers nothing new." "With solid performances and a script that’s never too hard on the ears," Kohn writes, "Spain’s superstar director merely repeats the themes and conflicts of his greatest hits. With secretive family issues, tortured artists, melodramatic events and slight humor all in play, Almodovar dutifully plays to his base."
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is similarly unsure of the film, also wondering "if Almodóvar isn't in danger of retreading old ideas," and stating that film "is always conspicuously concerned with passion, but without being itself fully passionate." With that in mind, he also goes on to call "Rotos" "a richly enjoyable piece of work, slick and sleek, with a sensuous feel for the cinematic surfaces of things and, as ever, self-reflexively infatuated with the business of cinema itself."
Bradshaw's fellow Brit David Gritten, gives another review that plays like a "Rotos" record: "Yet while his new film parades his many virtues, it treads water rather than breaks new ground." Though, once again, he ensures we know the following: "Even average Almodovar runs rings round most film-makers working at their peak."
Lisa Schwarzbaum's mini-review for Entertainment Weekly is less critical in noting the film's lack of new territory: "So although there's nothing dramatically new from Almodovar in Broken Embraces, what's there is so seamlessly chic, playful, and so unmistakably, grandly Pedrovian that I enjoyed giving into a swoon of gratitude... His newest creation folds a love story into a story of love of movies, a melodrama that alternates between comedy and luxurious sad tale."
The film had previously received many of its reviews (including from Variety, Screen and The Hollywood Reporter). IFC Daily's David Hudson, the unquestionable king of "round ups," offers some links to those here.
The other film screening in competition on the Croisette today was Marco Bellochio's "Vincere," which depicts Ida Dalser, the mother of the only illegitimate child Benito Mussolini ever acknowledged.
"Maybe I’m just a sucker for any historical drama that doesn’t go plod plod plod, but so far Vincere is easily my favorite film in Competition this year, despite being one of my least anticipated," The AV Club's Mike D'Angelo noted, going so far as to say that "if Fish Tank’s fine but unremarkable Katie Jarvis beats Mezzogiorno for Best Actress, I’m breaking out some actual nunchuks."
Overall, though, "Vincere"'s premiere was met with a generally mixed response.
Screen's Lee Marshall noted that "as a study of the personal tensions behind Italian history’s grand events, 'Vincere' lacks the sensitivity of the director’s Aldo Moro kidnapping drama Buongiorno Notte; but as a stirring portrait of a woman wronged, it delivers the emotional goods." While The Hollywood Reporter's Natasha Senjanovic says of the film: "The damage done by Mussolini as he ruthlessly rose to power and became a bloodthirsty ruler in his quest for domination is so much greater than the two destroyed lives of "Vincere" that the film simultaneously cancels the very empathy it evokes."
Finally, Variety's Jay Weissberg is much more impressed: "Conceived as grand opera set inside delineated space, it's a thrilling, at times brilliant piece of staging that never forgets the emotional pull of either the tragic personal tale or the ramifications of history"
On Neil Young's updated Palme d'Or odds, both "Vincere" and "Rotos" stand in the top 7 possibilities. Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" - which does not screen until Friday - is still in the top slot.
Other indieWIRE Cannes coverage today oddly came care of another film festival. At the American Pavilion, discussing their own future, Sundance's newly appointed Director John Cooper, and even more recently appointed Director of Programming Trevor Groth said they are planning on a major change within the next few years to reflect the “changing times in the arena of film.”
"When asked what the difference would be as most films at Sundance are already low budget," indieWIRE's Robin Sanders reported. "Cooper emphasized the 'need to differentiate between ‘low budget’ and ‘low budget aesthetics.’' These changes will happen over the next few years, with even possible hush hush changes for the 2010 festival."
Until then, we still have six more days of Cannes.
Be sure to check back here at indieWIRE for ongoing coverage of the Cannes Film Festival. You can also track any of the competition titles on indieWIRE's freshly launched Cannes film pages, which have now been updated in respect to the films that screened today.