Pedro Almodóvar’s films talk to each other. Each one informs and inspires the next, and often, one will glance back to pick up the thematic pieces laid down by the last one. Call it the “Pedro Almodóvar Extended Universe.”
Opening October 4, the Spanish auteur’s finest film in years “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 filmmaker 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, and he now has a strong shot at his first Oscar nomination ever, especially since this is one of Almodóvar’s most 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. 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.
Look back at Almodóvar’s 10 best films — at least according to this writer, and not without begrudging feelings about what’s been left out — ahead of “Pain and Glory.”