Queer Spanish Director Pedro Almodóvar premieres his latest film in Madrid
It’s been three years since Oscar-winning screenwriter and acclaimed Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar has released a film – three years too long for most fans. But for lovers of Almodóvar’s particular brand of cinema, where nonlinear plots are often filled with gay and transsexual characters, the wait is worth it. In his newest drama and 21st feature film Pain & Glory (Dolor y Gloria), Almodóvar is reunited with frequent collaborators, Oscar-nominated actress Penélope Cruz (Volver) and actor Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In). Banderas and Cruz were previously billed together in Almodóvar’s 2013 eccentric comedy I’m So Excited.
In many ways Almodóvar’s new work seems to paying homage to Italian director Federico Fellini’s 1963 drama 8½, which tells the story of an Italian director. In Pain & Glory, Almodóvar’s main character is a Spanish director in decline named Salvador Mallo (Banderas), who finds himself reflecting on some of the choices he’s made in his life with the past and the present crashing together around him. Many memories come flooding back as his health declines: his childhood in the 60s, when his parents moved to a village in Valencia in search of prosperity; his first desire; his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s; the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, and writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable; his early discovery of cinema; and the void, the infinite void that creates the incapacity for him to keep on making films. Pain and Glory talks about creation, about the difficulty of separating it from one’s own life and about the passions that give it meaning and hope. In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.
But where will his nostalgia take him?
The subject matter, where Banderas plays Almodóvar’s present-day tormented alter ego, and Cruz his mother at the time of his youth, is somewhat autobiographical and wraps up a trilogy which includes the 1987’s Law of Desire and Bad Education in 2004. Speaking about the making of the film from the red carpetat a pre-release screening of the movie in Madrid, Almodóvar said: “It was a relief, but it is a dangerous thing to play with your own life and turn it into fiction”.
One of the pleasures of watching any of Almodóvar’s work is the wonderful actors that he uses time and again. This is the eighth Almodóvar film Antonio Banderas has appeared in. “I can tell you that it has been very emotional, it’s been almost 40 years that we’ve been doing movies together,” said Banderas. The Spanish heartthrob first worked with Almodóvar in Matador in 1986. The following year he featured in Law of Desire, one of the auteur’s more explicitly gay films. These appearances launched Banderas’ career internationally.
Almodóvar first cast Penélope Cruz in his 1999 film All About My Mother, a move which launched her Hollywood career. Cruz was nominated for an Oscar for her part in his domestic drama Volver, the first time a Spanish-language role was nominated for Best Actress. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008. Cruz was last seen portraying Donatella Versace in the min-series The Assassination of Gianni Versace. In Pain & Glory, Cruz sings a Lola Flores song with SpanishGrammyaward winner Rosalia, known for mixing traditional flamenco with urban music. Almodóvar, who has been a fan of Rosalía’s for some time, cast her in a small part before her career took off spectacularly last year.
Almodóvar, who headed the Cannes Film Festival jury in 2017, has won two Oscars – with All About My Mother awarded the best foreign language film in 2000, and for the best original screenplay with Talk to Her in 2003. He also has four BAFTAs to his name as well as numerous other accolades for his colourful and melodramatic filmography. As has been the case in many of Almodóvar’s films, José Luis Alcaine once again provides some incredibly beautiful cinematography. The latest offering from Spain’s most widely acclaimed director, focusing on various stages in the life of a film director not so different from Almodóvar himself, his relationship with his mother, and his romances, promises to be another elegiac masterpiece.
Although Pain & Glory has premiered in Spain, international release is expected only in August 2019.
See the trailer for Pain & Glory here: