When I first watched “Pain and Glory” it called to mind the work of Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, who, like Pedro Almodovar, continuously displayed their ability to fuse their own lives and art, taking elements from their personal experiences and creating a world with rich and complicated characters. Nowhere has Almodovar’s talent as a director been put to such excellent use as in “Pain and Glory.” Clearly his most personal and best film to date, it is a contemplative triumph, rich and elegant yet intimate and subtle.
The story is an exploration of the pain and glory of an artist’s life through Antonio Banderas’ Salvador Mallo, a celebrated filmmaker whose present circumstances force him to confront his early life as well as his relationships, personal and professional. We experience what it is to dedicate yourself to your art and the sacrifices and exploration into your inner-self it takes to create revealing, interesting and original work.
The film flows effortlessly from present to past, through love and loss. The shifting of time goes hand in hand with the growing maladies of Mallo along with Almodovar’s masterful use of colors and powerful aesthetic choices. But it’s the melancholic remembrance of past loves, desires and torment that ultimately delivers a vivifying hopefulness without a hint of sentimentality.
With a sublime and committed performance from Antonio Banderas as Mallo, only heightened by the familiarity of his fellow actors’ own longtime relationship with the director, the entire cast deliver memorable performances that are complemented by an emotional and baring score by Alberto Iglesias.
Steve McQueen won the best picture Oscar for “12 Years a Slave,” which he directed. His other films include “Shame,” “Hunger” and “Widows.”