Harry Caine is a blind screenwriter, watched over by his former production assistant, Judit, and her son, Diego. His simple routine is upset when he hears of the death of a wealthy tycoon, and is later visited by the dead man's son in disguise. Pressed by Diego to explain, Harry recounts the tragic tale of how he, then known as Mateo Blanco, had fallen in love and had an affair with the tycoon's former lover, when she played a role in a film he was then directing, and of the accident that left him blind. The story itself is convoluted but clear enough - and I can't quite understand all the complaints about the story being confusing since film noir often tells a story within a story and keeps the audience guessing. Things are resolved in the end, and nearly every loose strand is tied. This one adds to the usual complexities a reflection on cinema, and two films within the film, and explores what it takes to revisit and remake the past so as to go on living.
It is a very poignant and at times quite amusing film about memory, lies, double lives, jealousy and revenge. Beautifully filmed with the eye for vibrant color and beauty that Almodovar is known for, the film also serves as a reminder of the changes in film technology that have occurred over the past few decades, and of the changes that have taken place in Almodovar's own style as a filmmaker, given that the film within the film suggests the more melodramatic and stylized work of his past. The film within a film bears a striking resemblance to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film that placed Almodovar on the world stage as one of the most intriguing of auteurs. Perhaps not among his greatest masterpieces - like All About My Mother or Talk to Her (Hable con Ella), which are my personal favorites - but still a very entertaining and provocative new film by one of the greatest living filmmakers. Highly recommended.
Update: I just saw this again and was struck by Almodovar's mastery of conflicting moods in this film - nostalgia, melancholy, hilarity, rapture, tension and suspense. Somehow it manages to be all of these without becoming muddled. The film also manages to channel a wide range of associations with other films and filmmakers while remaining thoroughly in the grasp of Almodovar and his distinctive sensibilities. On this second viewing I detected hints of Antonioni (especially L'Avventura), Hitchcock (especially Vertigo), Michael Powell (with an explicit reference to Peeping Tom), and, of course, of Almodovar's own earlier work. A beautiful and intelligent film, that holds up on multiple viewings.