El último beso con un abrazo roto: the Singapore grand premiere of Pedro Almodóvar’s Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces)

8 05 2010

The European Union Film Festival (EUFF) in Singapore kicked off on Thursday evening at Golden Village VivoCity to a full house, in which the audience was treated to a screening of a Pedro Almodóvar movie, Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces), motivated in part by the striking image of a couple embracing unnoticed by the human eye amidst the desolate volcanic landscape of a beach on the Canary Islands. Much of the movie is built around cinematic iconology, on which Almodóvar uses powerful iconic images and symbolism as a somewhat sombre story in related through the “eyes” of a blind writer, Mateo Blanco who goes by a pseudonym Harry Caine, masterfully depicted by Lluis Homar.

The movie revloves around the striking image of a couple embracing amidst the vastness of the volcanic landscape of Golfo Beach, unnoticed by the human eye, but captured by the camera.

Notwithstanding the Sangria that flowed at the reception before the late night screening at a time when I would usually have been in bed after a long working day, I needed little effort in keeping awake, enthralled by the images that came with each scene that Almodóvar skillfully delivers. I was struck by a poignant scene at the end of the movie in which Harry Caine realises that it was not in a tight embrace, as he had long imagined, but with a last kiss, the last kiss or el último beso with which the love of his life, the beautiful and soulful Lena, whom Penélope Cruz expertly portrays, parts with his company in the violence of a road collision that breaks the silence of the night. The last kiss has always been a powerful symbolic icon, one in which the parting of company is associated with, a farewell to what we have grown accustomed to, what we can sometimes be reluctant to leave behind. It at that moment of the last kiss that transforms the life of Mateo, losing not only his beloved Lena, but his sight, on which being a film director, he depends very much on. Mateo survives by transforming himself into Harry, and it is only after his realisation that it was with that last kiss with which he had parted with Lena, that he could live as Mateo once again.

Los Abrazos Rotos is the fourth film in which Penélope Cruz collaborates with Pedro Almodóvar.

The symbolism of the last kiss fortunately for fans of European films, does not extend to film festival itself. Far from saying goodbye, interest in the EUFF is definitely growing, as was observed by Mr. Kenneth Tan, the chairman of the Singapore Film Society, in his opening address. Now in its 20th year, this year’s EUFF sees an overwhelming response, packing the cinema hall with what Mr. Tan noted, its biggest ever crowd for an EUFF opening. This translates to the public screenings of the 16 other films as well, with strong demand that sees 80% of seats sold even before the first movie had been screened. On another note, Mr. Tan also mentions that the EUFF partners with the local film making industry and will provide opportunities for local filmmakers to showcase their works with screenings of short films made by them alongside some of the EUFF screenings. It is interesting to note that a young local filmmaker, Boo Junfeng, who is less than 30 years old, will make a debut at the Cannes Film Festival next week.

Cruz gives a striking performance as she goes through a range of moods of the various scenes.

A full synopsis of Los Abrazos Rotos, which also features Blanca Portillo as Mateo’s long suffering agent Judit, José Luis Gómez as the brutally jealous Ernesto Martel who Lena is a mistress of, and Rubén Ochandiano as Judit’s son Diego, can be found at the EUFF website. Do look out for Los Abrazos Rotos as it would be released to local cinemas from 13 May 2010.

Photographs of Mateo and Lena embracing broken into thousands of pieces. Powerful images are used in a film that revolves around many symbolic images.


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