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Pedro Almodovar
Pedro Almodovar

How Antonio Banderas Became Pedro Almodóvar in 'Pain & Glory'

Outlandish coincidences abound in Pedro Almodóvar’s films, from unlikely chance encounters to mistaken identities. But in his latest picture, “Pain and Glory,” it’s surely no coincidence that a poster for Fellini’s “8½” graces the wall of somebody’s apartment, or that the central character, Salvador Mallo, is an aging gay Spanish director with spiky gray hair whose name contains all the letters in “Almodóvar.”

Those are just a few of the signs that this new movie from the maker of “All About My Mother” is, in many ways, all about himself. Mallo, played by frequent collaborator Antonio Banderas, is an alter ego for Almodóvar, 69, and an echo of Fellini’s Guido Anselmi: a director edging into the twilight of life, plagued by physical and psychological frailty, visited by childhood memories, haunted by loss. There’s sex. There’s love. And, this being an Almodóvar film, there’s Mom (played in her younger years by Penélope Cruz, another of the director’s longtime go-to actors).

“Pain and Glory” screens in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, which Almodóvar and Banderas will attend together for the first time since 2011’s “The Skin I Live In.” Both are familiar figures on the Croisette. Almodóvar chaired the jury in 2017, and caused a kerfuffle when he proclaimed his support for the festival’s decision to ban Netflix films from competing unless they’re destined for theatrical release, a position fellow juror Will Smith promptly scoffed at. In interviews with Variety in Madrid, Almodóvar and Banderas continue to back Cannes’ stance, though Banderas has wrapped shooting on “The Laundromat” for Netflix, and, surprisingly, Almodóvar says (take note, Ted Sarandos) that he’s open to the idea of working with the streaming giant.

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