Celebrated film director and writer Salvador (Antonio Bandera), now retired, keeps to himself and rarely leaves his curated home. With several ailments and on going pain from his back operation, his solitude is interrupted by a chance to reunite with the actor who starred in one of his most famous films. Estranged for years after a disagreement, this reunion not only ignites his passion for writing but is the beginning of a trip down memory lane.
Writer/director Pedro Almodovar has created a story that is both personal and objective, using theatre to act out memories, possibly his own or maybe just his alter ego Salvador. Trying to decipher what is fiction and what could be fact is a waste of time as it really doesn’t matter. The flow from one scene where Salvador takes heroin for the first time and drifts into a scene from his childhood where he and his mother arrive at their new home, essentially a cave, works beautifully. We are invited into Salvador’s glory days through the glimpses of his film posters, the packed audience at a screening and the compliments about his work, but it is his pain that we feel most connected to after an animated look at all his medical problems. This sets us for the film, we know they’ll be pain and not just physical.
Bringing Salvador to life is Antonio Banderas who is definitely channelling his director and not just through his costume and hair. Without making it overtly obvious that the story and characters are inspired by real life, Banderas puts everything he has into this understated performance, proving that not all artists are the same. Salvador’s passion for filmmaking and cinema pushes through and the fact he has retired (the character, hopefully not Almoovar) only because he sees his body failing him, we really do feel his pain.
Unlike any of his other films, there is no suspense, there is no melodramatic moments, except maybe from Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) the actor Salvador had a falling out with. There are moments of comedy but not so outrageous as in previous films. There is something to be said for subtle films exploring fame and art, they feel more intimate and this certainly feels like we know much more about the film’s creator than from any of his other films.
Dir: Pedro Almodóvar
Prd: Agustín Almodóvar
Scr: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Penélope Cruz
DoP: José Luis Alcaine
Music: Alberto Iglesias
Running time: 114 minutes
Pain and Glory will be released in the UK on 23rd August