I have a bit of a Pedro Almodovar (Volver) blindspot in my film-watching history. Not because of preference or choice, with a lot of things going on there are bound to be things that are gently guided downwards, things that some people tend to advocate for. Yet like a lot of other well-regarded creative forces, he's managed to hit on some themes in his life that seem pseudo autobiographical and I feel close to at the moment, so I figured now was as good a time as any to dive in with Pain and Glory.
Almodovar wrote and directed the film, which focuses on Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas, The 33) a film director dealing with a creative regression while going through some personal experiences. The film shows us Salvador's memorable or even life-defining moments, whether they are in recent times or in flashbacks, as a young boy living next to his mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz, The Counselor). While not stated, this may be in part due to a health crisis that Salvador has to eventually confront, as he sees family, friends and demons again now in his 50s.
Given Almodovar is in his 70s and he's worked with Banderas frequently, one could certainly gleam on to this film being one that recounts his own life when it comes to family, sexuality, his work and his warts. In this tale, the fleeting moment in mortality certainly seems to have given Almodovar a chance at reflection of some sort, and doing so with some explanation and justifications for his reasons, his passion for why he has liked movies, despite some occasional drug hazed disdain for them. As Salvador, Banderas quietly goes through this journey to effective effect, showing bravado, vulnerability and tenderness at various points in his character's life, and for me at least, one of his best performances.
If you're new to Almodovar, one of the things that could distract you would be the lack of a central theme to this film, but it tends to miss the forest for the trees; while there isn't "anything" happening that one would expect, the larger thing is we are experiencing a life through memories like humans tend to do. We see Salvador's relationship with his mother at two different phases and at two different points of his life, and one would be hard pressed to claim that it would remain unchanged through both lives for any child and parent. It has for mine, so why wouldn't it here?
I would gather there have been or are better films that Almodovar has done that are flat out masterpieces, but for me, Pain and Glory is someone reaching through the moments in their life that have told their story. Almodovar handles them in a poignant manner that is simply stated and worth the exploration by fans of the auteur and to plebes like me who want a compelling abnd emotional story told expertly, and it's a wonderful life to experience, cinematic or otherwise.The Blu-ray:
Presented with an AVC encode, the 1.85:1 presentation of the film is beautiful, with natural bright light overhead in one of the homes, what is (presumably) the dark greens of an olive tree in another, all looking vivid and complementary (and natural looking flesh tones). Image detail is ample and consistent through the film, and Banderas' half beard is palpable! Kidding aside, this was an excellent presentation.The Sound:
A Spanish DTS-HD 5.1 lossless track comes with the film that is fine, but does not get a chance to show off much of anything. Banderas sits submerged in a pool and the silence the water brings is convincing, though the film is inherently devoid of a lot of channel panning or directional effects. Dialogue is well-balanced in the front of the theater and requires little user compensation, and the subwoofer is inactive for almost all of the film. Given the source material the soundtrack is fine.Extras:
The two extras here are decent; a Q&A with Almodovar, his brother (producer Agustin), Banderas and composer Alberto Iglesias chat (33:10) where the motivations of the film are recalled, along with what it is, and Banderas' approach to the story. The Almodovar-Banderas friendship is recalled and why they like this particular film. Almodovar tends to weave in and out of Spanish to English at a leisurely pace and the session is decent. "Almodovar: In his Own Words" (25:45) covers some of the same ground as the Q&A, but gets a little deeper into the writing process, on the cast and Banderas' place in his films. The trailer (1:28) completes things.Final Thoughts:
Now that I've opened my Pedro Almadovar account, Pain and Glory makes me want to see more of the director's work and to experience wonderful performances like those from Banderas and Cruz. Technically it's a wonderful presentation and I imagine with only two long-ish featurettes, it would be one for Criterion in the future. But in the meantime, this a fascinating movie.