All Pedro Almodovar movies are perfect. Even the less-good ones. Whenever I recall my peak Cannes viewings over the last 20-plus years (although my first Cannes happened in ’92), there are always two or three Almodovar films swimming around. Despite the grueling experience of I’m So Excited, the pure-Almodovar-pleasure factor is something I’ve come to expect. I’m fairly certain it’ll be mine to savor when I see Pain and Glory sometime between 5.15 and 5.24..
From Film Comment review By Manu Yánez Murillo, posted on 3.22.19: “Pain and Glory is a heartrending, meditative, and deeply confessional culmination of Almodovar’s prolonged immersion in the waters of autofiction.
“The clues of this fictionalized self-portrait are hidden in plain sight: Banderas, in the role of a lifetime, wears Almodóvar’s messy hairstyle, flashy sweaters, and flowery shirts, and Salvador’s memories are in perfect sync with episodes from Almodóvar’s career. As a pretext for putting its physically, spiritually, and artistically stagnant protagonist into motion, the story knits one of its threads around a restoration of Sabor (Flavor), a movie Salvador directed 32 years earlier, to be presented at Madrid’s Spanish Cinematheque.
“Those happen to be the same number of years that have passed since the release of Law of Desire, whose restoration Almodóvar presented in 2017 at, yes, the Spanish Cinematheque. On that occasion he was accompanied by his greatest muse, Carmen Maura, while in Pain and Glory Salvador (the name is reminiscent of ‘Almodóvar’) intends to attend the premiere with Sabor’s star, a former and estranged alter ego played by Asier Etxeandia, in a veiled reference to actor Eusebio Poncela.
“It goes without saying that the third star of Law of Desire was Antonio Banderas, playing Poncela’s impulsive and psychotic young lover in his third collaboration with Almodóvar.”
From a Variety q & a with Almodovar and Pain and Glory star Antonio Banderas, conducted by Henry Chu:
Variety: “The whole style of the film feels stripped down. Is this a new phase in your filmmaking?”
Almodóvar: “Absolutely. The style, the narration, is a continuation of what I did with Julieta: much more restrained and austere. Visually, the colors in this new phase are still vibrant and intense, because I’m not turning my back on the coloring of my films. But the tone of the narrative is more stark. This is quite a challenge for me, being such a baroque director, to move into this new phase. I don’t know whether I’ll go back again to what I was doing before, because I don’t normally look ahead and forecast what my next steps are going to be.”
“Any young movie buff seeking a shortcut guide to the work, life and style of Pedro Almodovar without having to plow through the whole 20-film oeuvre could do worse than head straight for Pain and Glory.
“This thinly disguised autobiographical roundup of the Spanish auteur’s personal and filmic past as seen through the eyes of an aging director would be termed a homage were it the work of anybody else — and though it might feel somewhat awkward that this particular sumptuous, exquisite love letter to the powerful cult of Almodovar has been made by the man himself, there’s still plenty about it to admire.
“On this evidence, Almodovar is approaching his 70th birthday with his love of moviemaking undiluted. Pain and Glory teems with all the things we relish about him: the importance of women (especially his mother), shameless nostalgia and celebration of sexuality are all present and, of course, in its overstated way, the film is unfailingly great to look at. But it’s unlikely to be remembered with any great fondness by all but Almodovar diehards, its self-regarding inwardness suggesting that he’s struggling, as his hero is here, to find something new to say.”