“Pain and Glory” (“Ddolor y Gloria”) 2019. Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar
– Comments by Cynthia Webb
There has always been a magical ingredient in the films of Pedro Almodovar and as time went on from his first film, “Pepi, Lucy, Bom and the Others” (1980), to his twenty-first film, “Pain and Glory” it was always there, although sometimes the rather wild subject matter took one’s attention away from it. My theory is that it is his sincere affection and empathy for all humanity.
His technique became more and more refined, until in “Pain and Glory”, it is sheer perfection. Such a light touch is shown here, compared with the opposite signature, back in the 1980s.
Almodovar collected many major awards along the way, especially when “All About My Mother” signaled a new stage in his skills.
“Pain and Glory” is different, because we experience it as ‘auto-biographical’. It’s difficult not to! The protagonist is a film director, Salvador Mallo with health problems and professional problems stemming from all that is going on in his mind, emotions and painful body. His life story in the film is more than a little similar to Almodovar himself, and his look. Almodovar’s career has been well documented and we know a lot about him throughout his life as Spain’s foremost film director, and the resemblance is impossible to get out of one’s mind while watching this gorgeous film.
Antonio Banderas’ performance as Salvador Mallo is one which is sure to bring nominations as Best Actor, in both Europe, and Britain, and probably the USA as well. It seemed to me that the two men merged into one in my mind, while I watched the film.
Penelope Cruz, who like Banderas, has often worked with Almodovar throughout all his film-making years, was excellent too – playing the mother of the boy we see growing up in rural Spain. We have read so much about Almodovar’s childhood, his love of his mother and the other women around him when he was growing up in a poor La Mancha village and it’s impossible not to think this is auto-biographical. There are presumably some fictitious episodes in “Pain and Glory”, and also things that really happened to Almodovar himself.
However, it doesn’t matter which is which, because this is a very accomplished piece of film-making and a sheer joy to experience. It is quiet, it is sweet, it is touching, it is filled with love and nostalgia, humour, forgiveness, endurance and hope too.
The construction of the film – its way of taking us through the story of a film director in the later stages of his career feels so natural and flows in a most beautiful way, until it arrives at the place Almodovar was always going to take us – into a new film by a maestro of the art of film-making.
It is suffused with the aforementioned magic ingredient, and it’s the soul of Pedro Almodovar himself, expressed as only he can do. No-one compares to him in being able to manifest such empathy. I feel fortunate to have lived in the same era as this artist of the cinema, watched all the films in chronological order and grown older with him.
I love this quote from Almodovar:
“Cinema has become my life. I don’t mean a parallel world, I mean my life itself. I sometimes have the impression that daily reality is simply there to provide material for my next film.”
This quote has become a reality in his latest film and as it ended, I was filled with a sense of sheer wonder. How does he do it? How does he balance all the things that go into making a film, and yet have this delicacy, beauty and personal sincerity in every frame.
Don’t miss it, if you are an Almodovar aficionado, nor if you are a lover of fine film-making.
Copyright, Cynthia Webb