Emilio Pereda/Paola Ardizzoni
Lisa Schwarzbaum
March 26, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A vibrant, mature love letter to the making of movies, the meaning of movies, and the dark-eyed muse Penélope Cruz, Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces doesn’t so much break new ground in the filmmaker’s instantly recognizable terrain as deepen an Almodóvarian’s understanding of how this uniquely stylish Spanish artist sees the world. And as every frame of this chic and playful comedy/melodrama attests, he sees the world — of personal relationships and creative collaboration, of natural landscape and man-made decor — through a cinephile’s magnifying lens.

Lluís Homar plays a blind screenwriter who was once a movie director and who once loved his leading lady (Cruz, delectable). As for the lady, she was once the mistress of a jealous tycoon, who once bullied his gay son into spying on the mistress by documenting the shooting of their ill-fated collaboration — ?a movie bearing a crazy resemblance to Almodóvar’s own classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The plot thickens! Further fun: Many of the characters go by two different names. So best advice for optimum viewing is, see Broken Embraces…twice. A-

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