There’s a hot new drama from Pedro Almodóvar; it’s just not his new movie. Spain’s most famous living filmmaker has had a tempestuous relationship with the Spanish Cinema Academy for year. He and his brother Agustín left the Academy in a huff in 2005 to protest the new voting rules for the Goyas (Spain’s Oscars).
Now the Academy’s returned the favor by leaving “Broken Embraces” — Almodóvar’s latest — off the short-list for their official Academy Award submission. The nods instead went to Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’s “Gordos,” Fernando Trueba’s “The Dancer and the Thief” and the Isabel Coixet’s little-loved “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo” (which Screen‘s Lee Marshall deemed “as empty as a shiny new Prada handbag on a boutique shelf”).
The gap between Almodóvar and his homeland is vast: like Woody Allen on the topic of America, Almodóvar’s long complained that he’s better appreciated abroad, especially in France. He does play well at the Oscars, and you’d think Spain would be interested in putting its best game face forward. Sanchez certainly thought so: “If I had to chose, I would have chosen Almodóvar.” Coixet was testier and less diplomatic: “Pedro has been there many times so perhaps they thought it’s time to open other possibilities.”
Or maybe everyone’s just tired of Spain’s de facto representative to the world being someone who can’t get along with them, which seems be fair. Either way, reviews of the film itself were mixed at Cannes, with even those fond of it admitting it doesn’t find the director breaking new ground.
Either way, Almodóvar’ll continue to churn out one film every two years, and — grandfathered as he is into the international cinematic establishment at this point — he’ll always be a prominent figure. Spain may have officially disowned him, at least this year, but — for better or worse — Almodóvar is cinematic Spain to the rest of the world.
[Photo: a still from “Broken Embraces,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2009]