Laurier Free Film Series screens Broken Promises

A movie inside a movie inside a movie – no, it’s not Inception II, it’s Broken Promises, the famed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s romantic thriller. On Thursday Laurier’s department of english and film studies put on a showing of Almodovar’s most “meta” film as part of its Through The Looking Glass: 11 Films About Film series.

The plot is based around Harry Caine, nee Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar), a blind screen-writer, who shares his life and home with his agent, Judit (Blanca Portillo) and her adult son, Diego (Tamar Novas). Caine discovers that a well-known businessman, Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez) has died, and, soon after, a strange young man visits Caine to pitch a movie. Caine discovers that the strange young man is Ernesto, Jr. (Rubén Ochandiano), son of the deceased Martel, and immediately after this discovery, with unexplained vehemence, Judit forbids Ernesto Jr. from contacting them again.

Judit leaves on a business trip, and Diego experiences an accidental drug overdose, which confines him to bed in Caine’s home. Caine begins to tell Diago the story of how he came to know Ernesto Sr., Ernesto Jr., and the aspiring actress Magdalena “Lena” Rivero (Penelope Cruz). In 1992 Lena was a secretary
for Ernesto Sr., and eventually became his mistress. Lena dreamt of becoming an actress, and by 1994 manages to land the lead role in Caine’s (at this time using his given name, Mateo Blanco) film, Chicas y maletas (Girls and Suitcases). Ernersto Sr. Is extremely controlling over Lena; however, he permits her to act in the film as long as his son, Ernesto Jr. films a “documentary” of the process. Ernesto Sr. watches the footage and discovers the love affair between Caine and Lena, which ultimately leads him to become more controlling and possessive of Lena. As the tale unfolds, we learn more of Caine and the story
behind his mysterious name change and blindness, as well as the characters’ present situation.

Broken Promises is a film about film, and not about plot. As a result, the storyline is, at times, predictable, and loses its appeal as a thriller. Some scenes lack the emotional power and depth that the characters’ situation seems to require, and therefore the characters seem flat and are hard to relate to on a human level. However, in Broken Promises, the story is only relevant insofar as it assists the form of the film, and therefore the primary focus of the movie is the movie itself. Almodóvar masterfully weaves film-making into the film in a self-conscious yet subtle and unpretentious way. Almodóvar’s filming technique also ironically combines bright colour in a story about a blind man who makes movies, which draws attention to the necessity of vision in order to understand and comprehend film. Broken Promises is not a gripping thriller, but, its complex style confronts our notions of film in a thought-provoking manner.

The Laurier Free Film series puts on a free film showing each Thursday, continuing until March 29. The next film to be featured is Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds beginning at 7pm in BA101. The series was curated by Anders Bergstrom and Patrick Faubert, with help from Margaret Clark, Susan
Hroncek, and Murrielle Michaud, who are all graduate students in the department of english and film studies.

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