Synopsis: A man writes, lives and loves in darkness. Fourteen years before, he was in a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote. In the accident, he didn’t lose only his sight, he also lost Lena (Penélope Cruz), the love of his life. This man uses two names: Harry Caine (Lluís Homar), a playful pseudonym with which he signs his literary works, stories and scripts, and Mateo Blanco, his real name, with which he lives and signs the film he directs. After the accident, Mateo Blanco reduces himself to his pseudonym, Harry Caine. If he can’t direct films he can only survive with the idea that Mateo Blanco died on Lanzarote with his beloved Lena. In the present day, Harry lives thanks to the scripts he writes and to the help he gets from his faithful former production manager, Judit García (Blanca Portillo), and from Diego (Tamar Novas), her son, his secretary, typist and guide. Since he decided to live and tell stories, Harry is an active, attractive blind man who has developed all his other senses in order to enjoy life, on a basis of irony and self-induced amnesia. He has erased from his biography any trace of his first identity, Mateo. One night Diego has an accident and Harry takes care of him (his mother, Judit, is out of Madrid and they decide not to tell her anything so as not to alarm her). During the first nights of his convalescence, Diego asks him about the time when he answered to the name of Mateo Blanco, after a moment of astonishment Harry can’t refuse and he tells Diego what happened fourteen years before with the idea of entertaining him, just as a father tells his little child a story so that he’ll fall asleep. The story of Mateo, Lena, Judit and Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez) is a story of “amour fou”, dominated by fatality, jealously, the abuse of power, treachery and a guilt complex. A moving and terrible story, the most expressive image of which is the photo of two lovers embracing, torn into a thousand pieces.
Round-up: "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. 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.