It’s a familiar trope: “A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.”
We’ve seen it in films ranging from “8 ½” to “Sullivan’s Travels” to “Stardust Memories.”
In “Pain and Glory” – a new Spanish film from Pedro Almodóvar – we find Antonio Banderas as a film director in his decline.
Salvador Mallo (Banderas) finds himself in the middle of a creative crisis. The re-release of an earlier film brings him to meet with Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), the lead actor with whom he hasn’t spoken in 30 years due to a falling out over the performance. The two smoke some heroin, causing Mallo to flash back to his childhood with his father (Raúl Arévalo) and mother (Penelope Cruz).
Later, Crespo brings a monologue to the stage based on Mallo’s memories about a relationship with a man named Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia). Turns out, Federico is in the audience. Now married with children, he seeks out Mallo and they talk about old times.
Then, Mallo attends an art exhibition where he recognizes himself as the boy in one of the paintings. This causes him to remember a man (César Vicente) who sketched him as a youth, an early hint of his homoerotic tendencies.
Still another memory of his childhood turns out to be part of an imagined film, with Salvador Mallo directing from behind the camera. Life and art turned inside out.
“Pain and Glory” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
This bittersweet drama reflects Pedro Almodóvar’s memories of his life and career – half autobiographic, half fiction. He looks back over his loves, addictions, chronic pain, and career challenges. It examines “grief, mortality, aging, regret, religion, sexuality …”
As one astute cinephile observes, “Once the noise of the glory goes away, there’s nothing left but emptiness and pain inside.”
Another moviegoer describes the film as “very personal and intimate, almost like reading someone’s diary while it’s being written.”
And a third sums it up as “the 8 ½ of our time, brought by a brilliant filmmaker.”
Almodóvar reinforces this conclusion, saying that Banderas is to him what Marcello Mastroianni was to Federico Fellini.
Mastroianni, of course, was Federico Fellini’s cinematic alter ego. And “8 ½” was Fellini’s most clearly autobiographical confession, a work that’s considered one of the greatest “films about film” ever made.
Yes, Almodóvar likes the comparison.
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