Pain and Glory

Pain and Glory ★★★★½

Easily Almodóvar’s best since his last collaboration with Banderas, The Skin I Live In, his latest is passionately acted, surprisingly plotted, and gorgeous to look at. 

Despite the picture exploring aging, artistic paralysis, addiction, and depression, there’s a joy to his filmmaking here, and his vibrant, eccentric sense of color is in peak form. He shows a playful adventurousness in his use of a digitally animated sequence, the sporadic voiceover, the staged monologue, and the final shot, as elegantly unveiled as it is cheeky. 

Banderas’s performance seems effortless; he has a remarkably light touch given a character arc worthy of a Sirk film. As his estranged friend/leading man, Etxeandia brings a rock’n’roll energy steeped in regret; if he had the name recognition here, he’d have supporting Oscar buzz alongside Banderas’. 

Cruz doesn’t play a fully developed character, but she exudes a warm, sensual presence, which is exactly what’s called for. And Asier Flores’ wide-eyed performance as the young Salvador, combined with some shrewd editing, creates a touching portrait of the artist as a latent homo.

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