Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Pedro Almodóvar's PAIN AND GLORY is, yes, painful and glorious (and funny and moving, and subtle and smart)

Anyone who has followed the more-than-40-year career of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar can hardly help but have noticed the tonal change in his films from the crazy, highly sexual and often darkly comedic to the more serious -- if still sometimes dark and sexual -- explorations into family and Freud (granted, his very own version of the good doctor).

Almodóvar's later films may have been successful to varying degrees, just as were his earlier movies -- though to listen to some critics/fans, those early comedies were all fabulous and wonderful; instead, they too were a mixed bag -- yet one of the distinct pleasures of contemplating this man's fecund career (he is shown at right) comes in seeing, little by little, the enormous depth and growth involved.

TrustMovies is certainly not alone in finding his latest film, PAIN AND GLORY, the pinnacle and culmina-tion (but not the finale, I hope) of his career.

In it, Antonio Banderas (above and below) -- who has appeared in numerous Almodóvar films over the years and whose career took off via this filmmaker -- plays an aging filmmaker very much like Almodóvar, whose life story we see unfurl here via flashback and present-day excursions into his current life of enormous physical pain (everything from excruciating back pain to migraines),

drug addiction, the rekindling of both a friendship and a hugely important love relationship, and a possible career rehabilitation via the rediscovery of one of his successful older films.

If this sounds like a lot to cover in a mere two hours, let it be known that the filmmaker does it all with breathtaking skill, surprising subtlety and intelligence, the expected (but still gorgeous) visuals exquisitely combining composition and color, and drawing spot-on performances from a well-chosen cast that includes Penélope Cruz (above, playing his mother in her younger days) and Julieta Serrano (below, right, as older mom).

The two performance highlights, however, come from that fine Argentine actor Leonardo Sbaraglia (below, right), playing the ex-lover with such passion, wit and alertness that this pretty much constitutes a career-best role -- in a career that already has some really spectacular ones (Wild Horses, Intacto, Contestant and King of the Mountain),

and from Asier Etxeandia (below), as the ex-friend and actor who starred in the filmmaker's most famous work, now estranged but gleefully ready to reconnect via drugs and maybe a new acting role. Etxeandia is exciting to watch in action, and his role is one of the film's best written and realized, as well as its most complicated creation.

Almodóvar does not attempt to make his "hero'" all that heroic. He's a user -- not just of drugs but of people. Watch sadly at how he treats his devoted personal secretary (Nora Navas, below, right). But, oh, god, he is so human. And his creativity, from what we can gather, is worth saving and encouraging.

As the filmmaker's delightfully intelligent younger self, Asier Flores (shown at bottom) proves a real find. This youngster gets one of the film's perfect scenes, in which incipient sexuality overtakes our hero in one marvelous, sudden rush. No explanation necessary, and Almodóvar doesn't belabor the point. (Shown below is the amazingly sensuous César Vicente, who plays the key element in that pivotal scene.)

Another bit of perfection occurs at film's end, when the writer/director simply moves his camera just a tad, in the process quietly letting us know that, "Hey, it's only a movie, right?" Sure. But what a movie!

From Sony Pictures Classics (and I would guess a front-runner for Best Foreign Language Film nomination), in Spanish with English subtitles, and lasting 113 minutes, Pain and Glory, after opening in key cities, hits South Florida this Friday, October 18, all over the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach areas. To find the theater(s) nearest you, simply click here, then click on GET TICKETS, scroll down to the October 18 dates and find your local theater(s). Or just fill in your zip code in the blank space and make things even easier.

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