Sunday, May 30, 2010

Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar

Penelope Cruz is an actress that I have decidedly not admired for a long time. Unlike many, when she shot to fame with her parts in All the Pretty Horses, Blow, and Vanilla Sky, I didn't think she was a very good actress and didn't find her particularly attractive. But then Vicky Christina Barcelona came along and showed me what kind of actress she could really be when working with the right people (Woody Allen in that case). So I decided to go back and check out her Oscar nominated performance in the Spanish language movie Volver, directed by Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar. I was blown away by what I saw, which was a warm and commanding, alluring and magnetic work from a performer of obviously the highest caliber. As soon as I could, I checked out their newest collaboration, Broken Embraces, the pair's fourth time working together. It's kind of Almodovar's take on noir, except like his other movies, it's tremendously filmed in bright beautiful colors instead of the standard noir black-and-white.

Cruz doesn't have quite the part or performance that she had in Volver, but she still has a much more comfortable and enticing presence onscreen in her native language. Cruz's current fiancee, Javier Bardem, has said in the past that he didn't think he'd ever feel comfortable acting in English, because it wasn't his first language and he would always be having to think about what he was saying instead of getting lost in the moment the way he could be in Spanish. I feel kind of the same about Cruz. She is noticeably more comfortable on screen when speaking Spanish, which is probably one of the reasons her performance in Vicky Christina Barcelona is so revelatory (although it didn't hit me as brilliant until a second viewing), considering it's in both Spanish and English, but mostly in Spanish. For some reason, even though I don't with Bardem or many other foreign actors, I get caught up listening to Cruz's accent when I hear her in English, and I find her generally unappealing due to that. But in her element, Cruz is a wonderful actress who can command the screen like only a certain group of actors can.
So I'm planning on checking out some of Cruz's other Spanish language work, including her 2 other collaborations with Almodovar, and am actually looking forward to seeing Cruz onscreen.


Jump_Raven said...

I watched Broken Embraces last week. Did you find that this film would be tougher than Almodóvar's other films to watch if you don't know of the films of Sirk and Fassbinder, just to name a few? His films always are more enjoyable with a cinematic background, but this one seemed to raise a tougher barrier than usual. Also, you can't enjoy the ending as much without having seen Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.

Kyle said...

It's possible that knowledge of Sirk and Fassbinder could heighten enjoyment of the movie. I can't really say, seeing as I have no knowledge of Fassbinder (outside of his name and a bit of reading on him, no actual movie watching), and very little of Sirk.

I found my knowledge of noir being tickled as I watched the movie. There were many nods to classic noir, but done all Almodovar-ian.

I also can't comment on Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, since I've only seen a couple of Almodovar, and that's not one of them.