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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
“Without filming, life is meaningless.” Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas)
Salvador is Pedro Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical self in Pain and Glory, a drama about an aging Spanish filmmaker dealing with writer’s lassitude, decreasing sexual power, addictions, and memories of childhood that clearly explain his late-in-life challenges. At age 70, Almodóvar has since Julieta, never been better. Nor has Banderas, who, after a heart attack, seems to have himself found a new vigour and depth never before seen. Rejuvenation is all around.
The drama, narrated by Salvador, connects the dots of his own life through his films. Writer/director Almodóvar has the audience living through Mallo’s daily boredom, which reveals the numerous incomplete stories and musings, many of which could have been produced. Present are all the rich colours, especially red, and the eccentric life choices. His impediments to a robust life now gradually reveal themselves such as disturbing memories of his mother, a love lost, and most of all addiction to heroin.
At the dawn of his ‘70s and the slide of his age, it’s the heroin debility that hurts the most as we watch this genius buckle to the hypnotic power of substance. However, as he reminisces about family and loves of the past, he is energized to re-enter the creative world. As powerful as any force is his youthful, electric mother (Penelope Cruz). When they moved into what looked like a cave, she transformed it into a glamorous catacomb (not a bad metaphor). His close relationship with his aging mother toward the end of the film is an exercise in lyrical, sentimental and loving filmmaking.
This is not a memoir, but it is as close as we have, to the auteur glossing the many afflictions he has dealt with his whole life. The result: colourful regret spiced with romance shouting that life is good. And film making.