Criterion Prediction #247: Pain and Glory, by Alexander Miller
Title: Pain and Glory
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Asier Etxeandia
Synopsis: Aging film director Salvador Mallo (Banderas) recollects his life while contending with a late creative in the later days of his prolific career.
Critique: It feels like a disservice to say one “likes” an Almodovar. His films are the kind that you fall in love with. Needless to sa, that his most recent, reflective and emotionally vibrant has extended and confirmed my life long love affair with the Spanish auteur. And it feels so natural with Pain and Glory because it’s about a subject so very intimate to the director, himself. From the offset, it’s easy to make the analogy that this is “Almodovar’s 8 1/2.” A shorthand observation. And we’ve seen so many other “8 1/2s” from other directors; Day for Night, All That Jazz and the ever so subtle Stardust Memories. These movies have their heady ruminations on the creative process, the melding of fact and fiction, the veil of pseudo fiction, those films are clever, sometimes cute in their execution.
Pain and Glory (the title sums things up) is simmering with the director’s trademark passion but it’s passion that’s evolved at the cost of maturation, both personal and professional. His art and his life are steadily in an upward trajectory and he’s still going strong. With all these contextual and artistic neurons firing off, the entirety of the film is smooth. Did this come at the cost of the jazzy riffs of energy that made Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown so enjoyable? Perhaps but great artists grow and Pain and Glory isn’t a compromise but a compassionate and tenderly rendered account of a life we’re all the more fortunate to see through his eyes.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: Every year, Criterion releases a few recent international/arthouse hits, from the immediate release of 2013’s Blue is the Warmest Color in 2014 to 2019’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which just hit shelves. Not to mention the recent influx of Almodovar films getting the Criterion treatment (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and All About my Mother). Now it feels like his body of work is officially “claimed,” so to speak, so maybe we’ll luck out with Pain and Glory?