Pain and Glory – bittersweet perfection from Pedro Almodóvar

the Guardian | 8/25/2019 | Mark Kermode


In Pedro Almodóvar’s previous film Julieta, a middle-aged woman returns to her old apartment block in Madrid to write about – and thereby confront – the ghosts of her life. There’s a similar sense of revisiting in Pain and Glory, in which Antonio Banderas plays a becalmed film-maker, struggling to move forward, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Described as the third part of an “unplanned trilogy” which began with Law of Desire (1987) and continued through Bad Education (2004), it’s another deeply personal work from Almodóvar that mixes autobiography with fiction to powerful effect. As the title suggests, the result is a tragicomic swirl of heartbreak and joy, slipping dexterously between riotous laughter and piercing sadness. At its heart is Banderas giving the performance of a lifetime in a role that, following his Cannes triumph, surely demands Oscar recognition.

Like Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini’s 8½, Banderas’s Salvador Mallo is an autofictional director in crisis. His mother, Jacinta, died four years ago and he had a back operation two years ago; he has not recovered from either trauma. Racked by pain, both physical and metaphysical (neatly illustrated by Juan Gatti’s Saul Bass-inflected graphics), Salvador has given up on work and retreated into a depressive cycle, reliant on medication. For more than three decades he’s been estranged from actor Alberto (Asier Etxeandia, excellent), the lead in his 1980s film Sabor, with whom he had a famously fractious relationship. Now a festival wants them to reunite and introduce a restored revival of the picture.

Alberto - Heroin - User - Salvador - Dragon

Alberto is a habitual heroin user who introduces Salvador to chasing the dragon before chancing upon his private manuscript, Addiction, a reminiscence of a love affair torn apart. “It’s a confessional text,” says Salvador. “I don’t want to be identified”, echoing his mother’s complaints that his films had turned their...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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