Ban­deras com­pelling in sel­f­re­flec­tive Almod­ó­var fea­ture

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT -

PAIN & GLORY (15)

TIME has been a benev­o­lent mis­tress to two-time Os­car win­ner Pe­dro Almod­ó­var.

The Span­ish writer-di­rec­tor has mel­lowed with age and honed his craft be­hind the cam­era with ten­derly ob­served char­ac­ter stud­ies in­clud­ing All About My Mother and Talk To Her.

That per­sonal touch serves him well in his self-reflective lat­est fea­ture, Pain & Glory a beau­ti­fully cal­i­brated, semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal mem­ory maze, which re­unites Almod­ó­var with lead­ing man An­to­nio Ban­deras.

‘Gos­sip grows old, like peo­ple,’ ob­serves one of the char­ac­ters in this bit­ter­sweet drama.

The rav­ages of time on body and mind are a cen­tral theme in Almod­ó­var’s script, which art­fully stitches to­gether key mo­ments from a film di­rec­tor’s life as he pre­pares to go un­der a sur­geon’s scalpel.

Ban­deras de­liv­ers one of the most com­pelling per­for­mances of his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer, peel­ing back lay­ers of re­gret and de­spair from a man in phys­i­cal agony, who has tem­po­rar­ily for­got­ten the un­abashed love of art and hu­man­ity in­stilled in him by his spir­ited mother.

Pac­ing is gen­tle as Almod­ó­var draws on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence (piv­otal scenes were shot in his real-life apart­ment) to in­form the lead char­ac­ter’s hap­haz­ard jour­ney to calling a truce with his past.

The best days of film­maker Sal­vador Mallo (Ban­deras) are be­hind him as he stum­bles, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, through mid­dle age with crip­pling back pain. ‘Without film­ing, my life is mean­ing­less,’ he laments to long-suf­fer­ing as­sis­tant Mercedes (Nora Navas).

When a lo­cal cin­ema hosts a screen­ing of a newly re­stored print of Sa­bor, one of his most cel­e­brated films, Sal­vador ner­vously ex­tends the hand of friend­ship to its hand­some star, Al­berto Cre­spo (Asier Etx­e­an­dia).

It has been 30 years since the two men spoke af­ter a stark dif­fer­ence of opin­ion about Al­berto’s drug use.

Sal­vador’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his work was coloured by the fal­ter­ing re­la­tion­ship and only now can he sep­a­rate per­sonal grief from creative glory.

‘Your eyes have changed, dar­ling. The film’s the same,’ purrs old ac­tor pal Zulema (Ce­cilia Roth).

Sal­vador and Al­berto’s awk­ward re­union, eased by deep in­hala­tions of heroin fumes, sparks vivid mem­o­ries of a bu­colic child­hood in Pa­terna, where nine-year-old Sal­vador (Asier Flores) or­bited his mother Jac­inta (Pene­lope Cruz).

She hired a hunky labourer (Ce­sar Vi­cente) to re­paint the walls of the fam­ily’s cave-like home and this vir­ile male pres­ence kin­dled Sal­vador’s sex­ual awak­en­ing.

Pain & Glory is gal­vanised by Ban­deras’s un­der­stated yet pow­er­ful cen­tral per­for­mance.

Ev­ery inch of his body seems to thrum with an­guish as he pieces to­gether a mo­saic of rem­i­nis­cence to the swoon­ing strains of com­poser Al­berto Igle­sias’s or­ches­tral score.

Past and present en­twine like long-lost lovers in Almod­ó­var’s script, which reaches an emo­tional crescendo with a ten­der ex­change be­tween Sal­vador and his mar­ried old flame (Leonardo Sbaraglia).

The hu­man body may fal­ter, some­times cat­a­stroph­i­cally, but love never dies.

RAT­ING: 8/10

An­to­nio Ban­deras as Sal­vador Mallo in Pain & Glory.

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