One could call Pedro Almodóvar’s 21st film Pain and Glory his most nakedly personal film to date, but don’t let the implication of nudity deny the many exquisite layers that make it one of his best films. Pain and Glory sees the Spanish auteur, who won Oscars for 1999’s All About My Mother and 2002’s Talk to Her, in top form. Few filmmakers probe the depths of life, love, loneliness, and intimacy with as vibrant a palette as Almodóvar does. This deeply personal essay celebrates the key loves of his life that inspired his illustrious career.
The film reunites Almodóvar with star Antonio Banderas, who gives the performance of his life playing Salvador, an aging filmmaker reflecting upon his long and illustrious career. Banderas, who won Best Actor at Cannes and deserves further recognition, has never been so bold, wily, and vulnerable. He is achingly humorous as Salvador dabbles in drugs and nostalgia for inspiration, while the film features scene-stealing supporting work by fellow Almodóvar regular Penélope Cruz in scenes depicting the filmmaker’s childhood in a poor working class home in rural Spain.
Pain and Glory is described as Almodóvar’s most personal film to date and fans of the director will note how each element of the frame speaks to the wealth of his experiences. His characters have never been funnier, nor more humane as Salvador revisits the pleasures and pains of first love. The film is Almodóvar’s most aesthetically decadent work in years thanks to the gorgeous cinematography by José Luis Alcaine. The euphoric music by Alberto Iglesias accentuates every beat of Banderas’s performance as the silver fox discovers himself anew. From the rainbow-patterned walls of Salvador’s home to the multi-coloured coloured beads that frame the door of his childhood home, the film is vibrantly awash with colours and details that intimately connect the director’s life with his greatest love of all: the cinema.