The director delivers another sensuous and deeply personal gem as Antonio Banderass ageing film-maker faces up to death
Pedro Almodvar has found a more intensely personal register than ever for his tender new movie about an ageing film director in retreat from his profession, facing ill health, depression and the decline of his powers. Its Almodvars 21st feature: maybe it could be called 20 .
Pain and Glory is an autumnal film in a ruminative minor key, with more pain than glory although glory does make a late resurgence. It brings Almodvars focus to death: his own and those of the people he loves, but also to the passion of film-making which may yet conquer death, or provide a way of coming to terms with it.
As ever, Almodvar has made a film about pleasure, which is itself a pleasure: witty, intelligent and sensuous. It is about love, memory, art, mothers, lovers and most of all it is about itself, which in the hands of a lesser director would be dismayingly indulgent. But Almodvar is a master of self-reference and intertextuality: the film within a film, the story within a story, the dream within a dream. Almodvar operates on a kind of internal combustion engine of creativity and I felt that this movie was running so smoothly and so seductively that it could have gone on for another five hours.
Antonio Banderas steps up to the role he was born to play, though without the giveaway snowy pompadour. He is Salvador Mallo, a movie director who has not made anything for years but who has accumulated enough money to live in comfort among expensive artworks, brooding on his various ailments headaches, backaches, a tendency to choke on any solid foods and general depression; all of these having some mysterious cause-or-effect relationship with his creative block.