Pedro Almodovar may very well be the one of the most primal filmmakers working today, but at the same time the auteur is also one of the most polished. Filling his films with the urgent primal needs of humankind, while painting these worlds with the broadest of strokes - both as visual palette and as emotional catharsis just this side of camp. Yet camp is always kept somewhere in the distance. Often seen and even talked about amongst his colorful characters (which many times include the camp requisite drag queens and fag hags!) Almodovar's camp sensibilities are always at the proverbial arm's length. Wherein the works of such camp-addled auteurs such as John Waters and Russ Meyer are filled and fattened with silly foibles of cheesy, cackling camp that actually interfere with the story trying to be told and never go much past the "how-far-can-we-go" stage of filmmaking. Almodovar knows just how far he should go, and even though he stretches those boundaries about as far as he feels like doing at any particular time, he never goes so far out of sight as to collapse his brightly decorated pictures the way other so-called camp directors do. As primal as he wants to be, and as polished and picture perfect as he can be.
As in many past pictures (perhaps in all of them) Almodovar takes the primal filmmaking style into the realm of film noir, and once there, livens the somber genre up with his queer flashes of bright, gaudy colours. From Matador to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown to High Heels to Bad Education right on into his latest, Broken Embraces. The story of a beautiful, young, aspiring actress (played with rosy-cheeked aplomb by, of course, Penelope Cruz) and her immersion into a world of Almodovar's twisted, noirish making. Married (unhappily, but richly!) to a wealthy (and perhaps unscrupulous!) older man, but in love with her film's director, Cruz's Lena is forced to make a decision that could (and of course, does!) alter everybody's futures. Just like the auteur's past works, Broken Embraces is gaudy, giddy fun, filled with garish primal colouring, but in a subtler way than Almodovar past (perhaps he is mellowing with age as many directors do). Looking past the (typically?) sappy ending, Almodovar has created one of his best - and most genuine - works of cinematic art. Even those camp sensibilities off in the filmic distance (and perhaps the filmmaker's past) cannot topple this seeming classic era motion picture. [01/19/10]