The burning of art and real life emerge in striking fruition in Pedro Almodovar’s latest, arguably most personal film to date. As if so many of his films weren’t pretty up-close already.
Pain and Glory (Dolory Gloria)in Spanish with English subtitles is absorbing, if brooding auto-fiction from the gay writer/director having a marvelous Antonio Banderas as his graying surrogate. Banderas was featured in the early oeuvre of Almodovar, including Matadoe and Law of Desire, before embarking on a successful U.S. career beginning with The Mambo Kings and Interview With A Vampire.
An inviting score from Alberto Iglesias reflects the shifting moods between bitter and sweet as an elemental execution has an earlier sparkle muted to noticeable emotional effect. A sure-handedness keeps it all from becoming adulterous and kitschy as Banderas’ prosperous film director Salvador Mailo is in an aIling mode after losing mother Jacinta (a charming Julieta Serrano) and undergoing back-surgery.
His creative urgency has failed him as he ruminates on his life choices (with plenty of fine art in a luxurious manse) and struggles to get involved in a production that has eluded him for years. Being introduced to actor Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) who helped Salvador’s career blossom before differences let him astray could be the impetus to pull him out of decline. Having a taste of the illicit from the former protege leads to a relaunch of Addiction, a manuscript, which Alberto is allowed to perform.
A renascence cues prominent individuals from Salvador’s younger days, including a lovely Penelope Cruz (who’s been a part of some of Almodovar’s greatest success including All About My Mother and Volver) as the more youthful Jacinta. Banderas doesn’t try for a stylized aping capturing the psyche of fearful, crestfallen man. His life carries “little meaning without filming.” Former colleagues like Cecilia Roth and Agustin Almodovar (Pedro’s younger brother) appears in smaller, but significant recognizable turns, through Etxeandia is clearly the most potent complement to the protagonist.
Pain and Glory may be viewed as a summation work given the uncertainties that go along with a waning mental and physical acuities as director and actor locate that rare symbiosis from retrospection and repentance. Some say the artistic Almodovar has already reinvented himself after a couple of decades into his profession. Who says his imagination won’t make it happen again ?