While Almodóvar’s films have often chronicled deeply personal tales rooted in post-Franco Madrid milieus, he possibly began transitioning from collective multi-character stories to focused individual ones, with Julieta. Suffused with memory, loss, melancholia and estrangement as in his marvelous previous film, Pain and Glory felt like a continuation of that possibly conscious shift. This impressionistic, confessional and introspective work also had strong autobiographical touches, thus making it even more personal. Antonio Banderas plays an ageing and reclusive gay filmmaker of great former repute – and with a striking resemblance to the Spanish maestro – for whom past and present have merged in his sense of being, on account of his inability to work due to debilitating physical ailments; an early animation sequence wryly provided a complete catalogue of his string of problems. Four people play key roles as he seems stuck in a stasis – memories of his ravishing and loving working-class mother (Penélope Cruz) when he was a precocious but impoverished kid; a young amateur painter who he’d once known; a bohemian actor (Asier Etxeandia) with whom he once had a fallout, who introduces him to heroin, and adapts his fiercely autobiographical monologue to stage; and Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) with who he once had a relationship in the heydays of 80s Madrid. The heartwarming reunion of the two aged former lovers was one the standout moments in this somber, restrained film comprising of stellar performances led by a memorably nuanced Banderas, striking visual schema, gently affecting score, and delectable meta elements. The cheeky final scene, where the flashbacks transform into a shot from a film directed by a now rejuvenated Salvador, provided an interesting dichotomy between actual and perceived personal realities.
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama