Apparently, quite unintentionally, according to its creator, Pedro Almodovar, PAIN AND GLORY is the third part of a spontaneously created trilogy that has taken thirty two years to complete.
The first two parts are Law of Desire and Bad Education, and as in those previous films, this third installment, PAIN AND GLORY, the protagonists is a male film director.
PAIN AND GLORY’s protagonist is Salvador Mallo, a film maker plagued by ailments so severe that they have sapped him of creative impetus. His mobility is impaired, he has frightful headaches and he has trouble swallowing.
At seemingly the end of his career, and, indeed, his life, he is lost in reveries, and so half this luscious film is concerned with the past, flashback in cinematic parlance, and how the past, with all its pain and passion, fashioned the film maker, with all his pain and passion.
PAIN AND GLORY begins with a riotously colourful title design bordering on the psychedelic, then plunges us into an image of Salvador submerged in a pool.
From aquatic present we are transported into his liquid past to a joyous scene of his mother together with other women washing at a river bank and spreading their laundry on bushes and branches to dry while they sing. It is a scene of choral community, bathed in sunlight, awash with love and care.
PAIN AND GLORY is a meditation on creativity, how its impulse comes from experience and memory and the difficulty of separating fiction from a life lived, how memories inform artistic expression, and how time shifts perspectives of memory, the sands shifting, the meaning and feelings sifting. Recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.
PAIN AND GLORY revels in Almodovarianism. Melodrama, flamboyant art direction, buoyant performances. Lovely to look at, lovely to listen to.
Antonio Banderas is superb as Salvador, creatively constipated, physically incapacitated, open to new experiences that could kill or cure.
Penelope Cruz is peerless as his mother, tough, beautiful, stoic love.
PAIN AND GLORY – more glory than pain.