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Magical complexity in 'Broken Embraces'

Something almost magical happens whenever actress Penélope Cruz and filmmaker Pedro Almodovar work together, and so it is with "Broken Embraces," a deliciously twisted tale of love, death and a badly edited film.

The writer-director is up to his old tricks, creating an onion of an experience - a movie within a movie within a movie, irony in each layer, poignancy that stings and whimsy that bites.

Cruz has turned in a performance that is just as complex - a character within a character and so on, all residing within the mysterious and beautiful Lena.

Central to the setup is an impoverished young beauty trying to escape the world's oldest profession and the powerful man who wants to possess her. Initially, fate comes down on his side. Lena has gotten an office job, but a bad turn of financial affairs makes a trick or two seem the only answer.

Enter Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez), her tycoon boss, who wants to help - though not for the most altruistic of reasons. Power corrupts, and Ernesto is not immune.

But there is another story unfolding that we need to pay attention to. Lluis Homar is a blind writer named Harry Caine, who has just been approached by a mysterious young director named Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano), who wants Harry to write a script for him. But Harry is actually a former director named Mateo. And Ray X, well, he is something else again, too.

There will be many more "buts" and "teens," as we tumble down the rabbit hole, where everyone has many faces and most have many names. Lives will intersect, hearts will be broken and three films will emerge.

Though Almodovar is the mischievous architect of the maze, thankfully, he is also a willing guide.

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