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The Flour of His Secret

Broken Embraces (2009)

Emilio Pereda and Paola Ardizzoni/
Sony Pictures Classics

Since the triumphant “All About My Mother,” Pedro Almodóvar has spent the last 10 years making middlebrow melodramas and noirs. In other words, he hasn’t been making those sexy, hysterical and fun movies that first garnered him attention stateside two decades ago. Then again, having a male character in drag was bold and flamboyant in the 1980s. It’s cliché in 2009 — hello, Ang Lee — and even Mr. Almodóvar knows this.

His latest, the Penélope Cruz-vehicle “Broken Embraces,” is yet another middlebrow melodramatic whodunit. Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar, probably best known as the child molester from “Bad Education”) is a filmmaker who lost his sight and has been working as a crime novelist under the nom de plume of Harry Caine. Ms. Cruz plays Lena, the star of Mateo’s final film and the trophy girlfriend of the film’s wealthy backer Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez).

Much like “Volver” and “Bad Education,” “Broken Embraces” has two parallel timelines in which the past comes back to haunt the transformed protagonists. The new film is actually of some interest, as it is a serviceable whodunit that sustains the moviegoers’ attention. But Mr. Almodóvar unnecessarily prolongs the film way past the point of solving the mystery with a storyline about Mateo/Harry’s overprotective ex-flame, Judit (Blanca Portillo). The entire third act is anticlimactic and forgettable, and one has to wonder why Mr. Almodóvar has to let his penchant for melodrama ruin a well executed noir.


Opens on Nov. 20 in New York, on Dec. 11 in Los Angeles and on Aug. 29 in Britain.

Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar; director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto; edited by José Salcedo; music by Alberto Iglesias; art director, Antxon Gómez; produced by Agustín Almodóvar and Esther García; released by Sony Pictures Classics (United States) and Pathé Distribution (Britain). In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Penélope Cruz (Lena), Lluís Homar (Mateo/Harry Caine), Blanca Portillo (Judit), José Luis Gómez (Ernesto Martel), Rubén Ochandiano (Ray X) and Tamar Novas (Diego).


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