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Thursday
Oct 03 2019

NYFF Review: Pain and Glory

byMurtada Elfadl

Salvador Mallo,the director and lead character inPain and Glory,tells one of his actors that holding back tears in emotional scenes instead of crying makes actors better.Yet Pedro Almodóvar,who wrote and directed and based this film partially on his life,does not.He goes deep,he explores honestly and elicits a deeply emotional and cathartic reaction.

In this thesis on his life and his work,he finds the generous space to include many of his collaborators in front and behind the camera.On screen we have Antonio Banderas as Mallo,Cecilia Roth,fromAll About My Mother(1999),appears as an actress from Mallo's past who's eager to work with him again.And most poignantly Peneope Cruz,his muse of many years and movies,plays a version of his mother...

Pain and Gloryis first and foremost about cinema.Any movie lover would swoon when Mallo recalls the movies of his childhood as smelling like summer breeze,like the beach,like hot piss.The smells he remembers from his childhood local cinema.It's also about cinema as an addiction.Once we fall into its spell,can we ever quit it?Can we survive its deep and demanding love?

Almodóvar gives us his ideas about actors,about creating art,about cinema and most touchingly about love.Queer love in particular.What it means to love and lose,to grow together and apart.The scenes where Mallo reconnects with his ex Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) provide a catharsis not just for Almodóvar,but for queer people who loved and grew up with his work for decades.In looking back together,us and him,we cherish the beautiful memories and enduring bond that Salvador and Federico have.We have it with Almodóvar and his movies.

The bond with mothers is a theme that Almodóvar has explored many times and from different angles.Of course he would not have denied us further examination of that in this;his most sincere interrogation of all the things that matter to him.Cruz and Julietta Serrano play two versions of Jacinta,Mallo's mother.One idealized,the other brittle.In trying to reconcile the two versions,Almodóvar arrives at one that's tragic but healing.He exhumes the ghost to find the lovely memories that make it.

In what might be his best performance ever,Banderas does not mimic the Almodóvar that we know and love.He has the spiky graying hair,wears the colorful shirts yet it's not an exacting imitation.Rather it's Banderas' interpretation,his homage,his idea of his long time friend and collaborator.Though at a few times the impression becomes uncanny.Every once in a while,he'd make a gesture or stress a certain word and I'd gasp with recognition.Pedro is on screen looking like Antonio.Perfect fusion of artist,muse and subject.

Grade:A

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Reader Comments (14)

Perfect review,thank you.For me Almodovar has recently created two of his best films - this and JULIETA.(Maybe he needed to create some personal catharsis by getting the godawful I'M SO EXCITED out of his system,in order to reset and create some masterpieces!)

Now that PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE is not in the running for Best International Film,I am rooting for this one.

October 3,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

Saying that Banderas is giving his best performance ever is not saying much considering he's been doing stinkers for more than a decade.

October 3,2019 | Unregistered CommenterAntoñita

beautiful review.I'm dying to see this again.The ending is just GAAAAAH the beauty of it all.And the scene with Leonardo Sbaraglia is also so special.

October 3,2019 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I definitely want to see this as I love Almodovar.

October 3,2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Aww,I likeI'm So Excited.Can't wait to see this.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Overrated all the way .

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJavier

Banderas only shines in his scenes with Sbaraglia and Julieta Serrano.The rest is quite average.Having said that,he's going to be nominated to every award under the sun.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Antonita I don't know how old you are but back in the late 80's early 90's he was a highly sought after promising young actor and was great in the early Almodovar movies he then went to Hollywood who didn't quite know what to do with him but he did appear in some good movies though

Interview with the Vampire were his exotic charm and sensuality leapt off the screen,he is the 2nd best thing in that movie after Kirsten.

He was quite able opp Madonna in Evita bringing out the passion in his vocals

Fun and Silly in Mask of Zorro.

He may have done some rubbish but every good actor has when they are no longer a hot young thing just like it happens to ladies.

Seems if your hot you have a hard time in Hollywood getting older unless your Brad Pitt.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I love the guy,but he hasn't been in a good movie since Evita.He should have been Guido.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterAntoñita

The scene with Cecilia Roth is bad,Asier Etxeandia's monologue is pointless and the infographics made me blush.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrooklyn

it is kind of amusing to check out how everyone seems to forget that Banderas gave an amazing performance in Shrek 2 that allowed him to do what nobody had done before (or after): be introduced as a supporting character in a franchise sequel and knock it out of the park so wildly,that his character stars in a spin off.

Banderas should have been nominated for the Oscar several times...

Supporting for Law of Desire
Lead for Tie me up,Tie me down
(depending of the 45 minutes cut out of Philadelphia,he could have scored a supporting nom)
Supporting for Evita
Supporting for his voice acting in Shrek 2
Lead for The Skin I live in (he should have won for this one)
...and now,Lead for Pain and Glory.He could actually win.

So yeah,I think he is overdue.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJesus

By the way,it is unclear to me,how much of the film is about Pedro and how much of the film is about Antonio.

Rumor in Spain for ages,was that Antonio is bi and did indeed have something with both Imanol Arias (star of Labyrinth of Passion) and / or Pedro Almodovar himself.Take it as you will,but this could give the film a different flavour and sense.For example,the scar on Salvador's chest is actually real,it is Banderas actual scar after the heart surgery he went through a few years ago,and that made him change his career back into more serious roles and away from action.

Oscar wise,I think its chances are extremely solid on Actor,Original Screenplay,Cinematography,International Film and Score.Director,Picture and Production Design aren`t out of reach,but seem more difficult gvien the competition and would require a HUGE support from precursors.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJesus

Beautiful review.You've amped up my excitement to see it.

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Cusumano

I'll have what Jesús is having

October 4,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

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