Another Pedro Almodovar movie, another blast of critical hyperbole hailing his Cukor-style alchemy with star Penelope Cruz. Normally I would just cover my head and wait for it all to blow over, but this melancholy romance is the first Almodovar feature I've ever really liked, an expertly fashioned melodrama that steers mercifully clear of his usual puckishness and star-mongering. Or, perhaps, instead of avoiding the latter, Almodovar has merely externalized it: the protagonist is a blind screenwriter (Lluis Homar) still carrying the torch for a woman he loved (Cruz) and the aborted movie he directed her in. Flashbacks reveal the romantic triangle that developed between the filmmaker, his muse, and her controlling millionaire husband (Jose Luis Gomez), the sort of half-repellent, half-pathetic figure common to the great films noir. In the end, the hero's movie becomes the ultimate act of romantic worship, extravagant precisely because the rest of the world is invited to join in. In Spanish with subtitles. R, 127 min.
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