I’m a huge fan of the Spanish director Amodovar and being the movie goer that I am – I went to see a Spanish movie called “Pain and Glory” without realising Almodovar was the one behind it. When his name appeared on the title credits, I was tapping my feet in excitement.
From the opening scenes till the end credits, (2h+ later), I was either laughing or crying or in awe of the masterpiece he’d created. His Magnus Opus if you ask me. And much like Tarantino put a lot of his personal experience into Once upon a time in Hollywood so did Almodovar as we see the life in the Spanish countryside and the pained life of a former movie director who now struggles with bad back and terrible coughing fits.
I felt my hairs rise at the first note of the songs in the movie and it didn’t settle until I went out from the cinema, all starry eyed and feeling good.
There are two distinct timelines in the movie which follow the life of young Salvador Mallo (always in the presence of his beautiful mother played by Penelope Cruz) as he navigates childhood, education given by priests (the only one available for the really poor) and living in one of the caves where the sun would filter from the roof.
The other story, shown interwoven like a beautiful tapestry is the old Salvador – played by Antonio Banderas – who suffers from all the ailments of old age and who reconnects with one of his former actors and gets addicted to Heroin (yep – what a drug!) that helps him with his back pain. He still talks to his mother a lot – who is living in the village where he grew up but comes to visit him in Madrid when her own health is failing. That prompted one of the most emotional scenes I have seen since “Habla con ella”
It’s not the first time I’ve seen Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in one of Almodovar’s movies. Remember Matador? La ley del deseo? Todo sobre mi madre? Volver? Don’t know how to tell you but all of the movies above have a super high rating on IMDb and most of them have been nominated for one or more oscars. I feel that February 2020’s Oscars might see this movie nominated!
The narrative is partly autobiographical, personal touches everywhere, and an exploration of the frustration with aging and with loneliness common to most people. Almodovar also show his appreciation for the path that he’s had the privilege to make for himself and continues to work on, and the people who are important to him. He succeeds in exploring nostalgia without succumbing to sappiness.
- The colours! The movie is visually stunning in every single shot! There are reds, greens, blues, yellows – all mixed together in every scene. I was watching Salvador wear complementing outfits to his on-stage partners.
- The exploration of the first sexual desire
- The sunny shots (I hate movies shot in the dark with every fibre of my being (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3)
- The dialogue (the one between Salvador and his mother brought me to tears!)
- The connections between people and the memories of the past. I loved how Salvador and his gay lover found themselves after years apart and how they each saw in each other their younger selves with all their flaws and qualities.
- The story of the painting of the boy (the first desire) and how the experience formed Salvador in his later years and became the subject of the new movie (a work that brought him out of his self-imposed isolation)
- The desire of the mother to see her boy do well and making the best of her life wherever she went. She transformed that cave she lived in and made it her home. Even if she didn’t always approve with her son’s lifestyle, she did love him a lot. Penelope Cruz is absolutely shining though with her acting!
- The way the story was told. We find out what happened between the boy Salvador and the aging director Salvador via either animations at the start of the movie or with the monologue delivered brilliantly in the staged play “Addiction”.
The bad bits
- There is a lot of drug consumption. I understand the reason behind it and the internal struggle is well presented
- The movie is quite long with some scenes too long for their purpose.