PAIN & GLORY – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Pain & Glory is the new film from director Pedro Almodóvar. If you are a fan of his films, then you are in for a feast of heartfelt transparency. In his other films, he used moments of his life to build his stories around. In this new film, he is the story. Almodóvar cuts his veins and pours out his life of filmmaking and storytelling out onto the screen through the fictional director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas). The film uses a series of reencounters experienced by Salvador who is an older film director in his physical decline. Some of the encounters are in the flesh, others are remembered in a drugged-out haze.
We see Salvador’s childhood in the 60s when he emigrated with his parents Jacinta (Penelope Cruz) and Venancio (Raúl Arévalo) to a village in Valencia. They were in search of a better life. It’s there that the young boy encounters the first sexual desire of his life in the form of a young man Eduardo (Cesar Vicente) he is teaching to read. Salvador used his writing to deal with the pain of the breakup of his first adult love in Madrid in the 80s. While it has been years since that time, the love and the hurt are still alive and intense. The manuscript is seen by an actor friend of his, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia). Alberto begs Salvador to allow him to produce it as a one-man show on the stage. Salvador finally relents and we see on that stage the unforgettable love he had and his early discovery of cinema. The monologue is titled The Addiction and Alberto Crespo performs it in front of a bare, white screen as the only décor. That display of his pain leads to a remarkable reunion. I won’t give anything else away because I want you to go see this film in the theaters.
Take note that Antonio Banderas’ performance in this film is transcendent. I like him in films but his acting is usually over the top. In this film, he gives the most restrained and touching performance of his career as the suffering, isolated Salvador Mallo. He is profound and subtle, with a gallery of minute gestures, he has pulled off a very difficult character. With his performance of Salvador Mallo, he has taken his acting to a whole new level. And Penelope Cruz as Salvador’s mother in the 60s is spot on. The director presents her as the paradigm of the Spanish mother on film. Rural in origin with an infinite loving capacity for struggling and surviving.
Quite unintentionally according to the director, Pain and Glory is the third part of an organically created trilogy that has taken thirty-two years to complete. The first two parts are Law of Desire and Bad Education. And now we have Pain & Glory. In all the three films, the protagonists are male characters who are film directors – desire and cinematic fiction being the pillars of the story. Almodóvar believes that “Fiction and life are two sides of the same coin, and life always includes pain and desire.”
What I love most about Pain & Glory is the ease in which the filmmaker shares his story through the character of Salvador. In Pedro Almodóvar’s hands, a mind-blowing coincidence is believable and feels real. He shows us the pain of inactivity and the void created by the incapacity to keep on making films. It’s a study about creation and the difficulty of separating it from the creator’s own life. It covers the passions that give his life meaning and hope. In recovering his past, Salvador rediscovers his need to put it in story form. And in that need, he also finds his salvation.
I give Pain & Glory an A+ rating and know it will be on Oscars’ shortlists for Best Lead Actor and Best Direction.
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Written by Pedro Almodóvar
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 1hr 53min
Limited Release October 18th Angelika Theater & Cafe- Dallas / Plano
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Julieta Serrano, Penelope Cruz
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.