Perhaps one of the most sublime works of recent years, Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film is incredibly touching and intimate. It follows an aging film director who struggles with depression, addiction and how to move on. “Without film-making my life is meaningless,” says Bandaras’ Salvador Mallo, who is some-what of a reflection on Almodóvar himself. The film is a fiction, it’s deeply personal and some-what autobiographical.
I have pondered upon this for months, I genuinely have little words to explain the beauty and sublime nature that Pain and Glory is presented in. It is deep down Almodóvar himself looking upon the effect of time, and its impact is seen through Mallo’s broken body and frequent choking fits. Additionally, it’s a film about film, the self-reflexive nature of the film is enamoring, showing a deep personal love for the craft of film-making and viewing. With frequent references with the young Mallo glancing or talking about Hollywood stars, including Donna Reed, Marilyn Monroe and so many more.
A film director (Antonio Banderas) reflects on the choices he’s made in life as the past and present come crashing down around him. Now crippled and in constant pain, Salvador Mallo must deal with his inability to continue his passion and love, film-making. A surprise meeting with an friend, Zulema (Cecilia Roth) reconnects him with Alberto (Asier Etxeandia). The pair had a troubled history in the making of the-now-classic film, ‘Sabor’. Salvador begins to take heroin, dealing with even further struggles adding upon his others. Alberto stumbles upon a confessional script, “Addiction” about a former love and their struggle with drugs. Alberto performs the-anonymous-script on stage leading to the return of a lovingly familiar face, Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), Salvador’s past lover. Linking to the present strands is Salvador’s memories of his mother (Penélope Cruz).
There is a sensuous beauty in Almodóvar’s delicate touch, neatly combining the two strands of narrative to a beautiful end. Pain and Glory is routed in memory, it is incredibly sweet, melancholic and humorous in the film’s affectionate tale of time passing. The direction is breathtaking, with Almodóvar’s framing it feels as if every frame is a painting. Strikingly, the mise-en-scene is simply serene, production designer Antxón Gómez and Almodóvar’s collaboration creates a colour palette that oozes passion and vibrancy.
José Luis Alcane’s cinematography gives Pain and Glory a sense of warmth and delicacy, with calculatedly smooth camera movements and little coverage, you feel Almodóvar’s touch of mastery in the crafting of the visuals. Antonio Banderas delivers perhaps his greatest performance worthy of all-consideration when Awards season comes knocking. He is nimble, broken and quiet, he is completely lost in Salavador Mallo. Additionally, Leonardo Sbaraglia’s brief stint as Federico is simply pristine, reflecting a similar nimble quality to Banderas’ performance and Penélope Cruz is wonderful and gives one of the best supporting performances of recent memory.
In a way with this being a meta-film, comparisons could be drawn to the theory of ‘pure cinema’, which is a means of cinematic vision that upholds the notions of cinematic embroidery. Taking notice and vividly commenting on the art of cinema, showing a self-reflexive nature that shines as a work that is in love with cinema. This is what Pain and Glory is, a work of pure cinema.
Pain and Glory is heartbreaking, touching, intimate and serene. It marks Almodóvar at a height of cinematic mastery, with a film that is beauty at its finest and most pure.
5/5 Stars ★★★★★