Screenings: Nov. 29-Dec. 5
Show Times: Nightly at 7:30 pm. Sunday matinee at 2:30 pm. No one will be admitted after the film has started.
Admission: Regular $7; Matinees $6; MVFS Members $5; Seniors over 60, Military and Students with ID $6; Wednesdays $5. We do not sell tickets in advance. Doors open 45 minutes before showtime.
Running Time: 103 min
Language/Subtitles: Spanish w/ subtitles
Film Director: Pedro Almodóvar
If there were any doubts that Pedro Almodóvar wasn’t just a fun, idiosyncratic, indelible and significant filmmaker, but an undeniably great filmmaker — one for the ages — those doubts were dispelled with “Julieta,” his 2016 masterpiece. And now there’s “Pain and Glory” to raise the possibility that, at 70, Almodóvar is in the midst of a magnificent flowering, that we’re witnessing the best period of his career.
“Pain and Glory” is the story of a Spanish film director, who finds himself dealing with a variety of ailments, physical and emotional, that are keeping him from working. Anyone who sees it will assume the story to be autobiographical, and it is — in the best way. It’s poetically autobiographical, concentrating on the concerns of the artist at the dawn of his 70s, while using a mix of fact and fiction to express them.
The movie contrasts the vigor of a director’s work with the pain of the man creating it. Salvador (Antonio Banderas) has self-narrated his life through the films he has made, which are radical, colorful and vivid. But now he’s feeling the universal blur of old age dissolving his edges. He is feeling the waning of engagement, the retreat into the shadows. At the same time, his memories keep pulling him back to his beginnings, to his childhood and his relationship with his resourceful and tireless mother (Penélope Cruz).
For “Pain and Glory,” Banderas wears his hair in a style that calls to mind Almodóvar, and he has a way of taking his time to absorbing his surroundings that suggests Almodóvar’s own manner. Banderas opens himself to the director’s persona, but the pain underlying the performance seems to be coming from some mysterious level within the actor himself. Both Banderas and Almodóvar have noted a deepening in Banderas’ acting since he suffered a heart attack a few years ago. Whatever the cause, Banderas looks like he has seen the abyss, and for much of “Pain and Glory,” the abyss is calling to him.
Here, as elsewhere, Almodóvar has a wonderful way of writing a screenplay that ideally combines spontaneity and structure. Throughout, the film seems almost random, that this scene happens, and then that, as though we were just watching moments from life. Yet to look back on the film having seen it is to realize that one thing is always leading into another, and that, in a seemingly no-hands sort of way, Almodóvar is steering the story and heading somewhere at all times.
As the movie begins, Salvador finds out that an old movie of his, made more than 30 years before, has been restored. Now regarded as a classic, it’s going to receive a prestigious screening, and it’s suggested that he introduce the event with the film’s star. But he’s been estranged from that actor for years. The actor was a heroin addict then, and when Salvador shows up at the man’s house, he finds that he’s still a heroin addict. Asier Etxeandia, as the actor, is just great — over-the-top, earthy, elemental and true. It’s a banquet of a performance.
Throughout, there are flashbacks to the director’s childhood, with a particularly memorable sequence in which the family moves into something that is, essentially, a cave. We witness how the mother turns that cave into a home, using the most humble of materials — just paint and plants — to transform it completely. A lovely thing about Almodóvar is that he sees things others don’t, one of them being that the unsung titans of the world are women. Almodóvar’s tribute to his mother, to the pain and sweetness of their relationship, is worthy of a master.
Economically and stunningly, Almodóvar combines a high sense of style with a deep sense of humanity, along with a touch of erotic beauty that has always characterized his work. “Pain and Glory,” all about healing rifts and rejoining life, is personal and universal. It’s also simple in a way that’s incandescent — suffused by a strange and beautiful gentleness of spirit. Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle. Rated R for drug use, some graphic nudity and language.