Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Pain and Glory - Review

Pain and Glory. Two words that conjure two very different reactions, almost opposites even, yet director and writer Pedro Almodóvar shows how each feeling needs the other. In a film that isn’t totally autobiographical, just auto-fiction, a fact brought up by the film itself even, Almodóvar holds up a mirror to his life and spills the reflection out for the world to see in the form of Pain and Glory.

A series of reencounters experienced by Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a film director in his physical decline. Some of them in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the 60s, when he emigrated with his parents to a village in Valencia in search of prosperity, the first desire, his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s, the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable, the early discovery of cinema, and the void, the infinite void that creates the incapacity to keep on making films.

There may not be a film in 2019 that strikes a more melancholic tone than Pain & Glory. It’s a beautiful glance, a calculated meditation, into the life of its own creator, writer and director Pedro Almodóvar. Though far from a glamorous endeavor, the film takes place mostly in the apartment of the aging, pained “fictional” director, Almodóvar breathes life into it through brilliant colors and the air of a daydream.

Perhaps the best piece of insight to leave Pain and Glory with is this: Antonio Banderas is a phenomenal actor. Somewhere, somehow, that fact gets lost, and Almodóvar gives Banderas the opportunity to show it once more. Banderas is transformed into a an Almodóvar stand in, complete with similar clothes and some of the director’s own artwork filling a replica apartment. Banderas plays it all with a haggard look, haunted by a past he feels is better than any future, but a tinge of warmth in his voice and eyes that says he hasn’t completely given up yet either.

The film is told through the eyes of Banderas’ Salvador Mallo, both in present and past tense. The infusion of flashbacks to better construct the life of the character is a choice that plays perfectly. Rather than a portrait of an aging artist, like so many have tried before, the utilization of time by Almodóvar instead shows what becomes of life, and how it’s shaped along the way.

Pain and Glory showcases the work of an artist still growing as he enters his 70s. It’s a self-reflection and exploration of what art means, to consumer and creator, and how it can affect everything and everyone. Banderas is brilliant, constructing one of the more fascinating characters of the year, and possibly playing himself into an Oscar nomination as well. Few films this year offer the artfulness and layers that Pain and Glory does, making it a must see for everyone as the year draws to a close.

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