The Spanish auteur’s finest film in years, Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” is also his most personal, a colorful vivisection of the director’s life and work, his regrets and achievements. No doubt playing a version of the Academy Award-winning director himself, Antonio Banderas stars as Salvador Mallo, a film director in creative crisis who begins experimenting with drugs in the lead-up to a local career retrospective of his work. Banderas won the 2019 Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal, which is the Spanish actor’s most sensitive performance in many years. With the Cannes prize under his belt, Banderas has a strong shot at his first Oscar nomination ever, especially since this is one of Almodóvar’s more accessible efforts.
“Pain and Glory” features several breakouts in the cast, including Asier Etxeandia as Alberto, Salvador’s former onscreen muse who’s now a high-functioning heroin addict. Dreamy newcomer César Vicente plays the beguiling laborer Eduardo, who inspired Salvador’s sexual awakening as a child, as revealed in poignant, sexy flashbacks carefully stitched by Almodóvar’s editor Teresa Font. Penélope Cruz co-stars as the young Salvador’s mother. “Pain and Glory” features another achingly lovely score from Alberto Iglesias, who won Best Composer at Cannes, and pop-colored cinematography from Almodóvar’s trusted collaborator José Luis Alcaine.
Out October 4 from Sony Pictures Classics, “Pain and Glory” will play both the Toronto and New York film festivals. This is yet another winning collaboration between Almodóvar and Banderas, who has worked with the director as early as 1982’s “Labyrinth of Passion.” Some of their best films together include entries from Almodóvar’s kinkier punk days such as “Matador,” “Law of Desire,” “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” and “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” but also later films such as “The Skin I Live In” and “I’m So Excited!”
With SPC backing the film, Spain will likely submit “Pain and Glory” for the 2020 Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award. The country rarely neglects to submit Almodóvar’s films, including “Julieta” and “Volver” most recently. Almodóvar won the Oscar for his 1999 masterpiece “All About My Mother.” If that film was a tribute to the onscreen women who inspired him and the behind-the-scenes women who raised him, then “Pain and Glory” is Almodóvar finally looking closely at himself and examining a life and career that are nearly unprecedented in contemporary cinema.