Pain and Glory

Pain and Glory ★★★½

I am not a big fan of the Directors previous films, so I came into this with a bit of reservation. It certainly won me over, and there is a whole lot to unpack in this intriguing and introspective effort.

Much of the conversation around this film has to do with that familiar adage, does life reflect art or does art reflect life. The film's not interested in answering this question in one way or another, rather in opening us up to the possibility of seeing this question from both angles, sometimes in perspective, other times in retrospect, and primarily in an interconnected way.

Structurally speaking the use of flashbacks and present day does feel a bit disjointed and confusing at first. The present day stuff is perhaps the easiest to behind in the moment, unfolding in a kind of episodic fashion with each event influencing or leading to the other in consecutive form. And with each episode we are left with some unanswered questions that the flashbacks intend to explore further. The issue is, these flashbacks aren't always clear about how they are doing this, leaving us searching for the meaning in the moment.

To the films credit though, once we arrive at the ending it affords a whole new way to see this past-present structure in accord. By reformatting our understanding of these scenes, and placing them firmly in this brooding question about life and art, what the end reveals is someone taking the confusion and the struggle of his past and weaving it into a story meant to give shape to how it forms or comments on his present (in the form of art). Which is really quite profound when understood from that perspective.

What makes this film even more profound is discovering through some interviews that it is apparently telling the story of the Directors own life, particularly in his relationship the artists he worked and formed bonds with. What's fascinating to consider is that Banderos is the actor he has the strongest relationship with, and in the film Banderos is portraying him (the Director). And while I cannot confirm this, there seems to be a deliberate intention as well in casting someone alongside Banderos who is meant to play Banderos. Which is fascinating to consider, because this elevates his performance to something deeply personal and very vulnerable on multiple levels.

And if this film is telling the Directors story, I think it is fair to count this among those films where we see longstanding, and for some legendary Directors reflecting back on their career and asking this life-art question themselves. How has their work given their life meaning, and how has it reflected meaning back out into the world. What value does art have, and would life hold much value outside of arts ability to speak to it? These are questions asked within the film that hold eternal significance, giving this narrative a timeless presence. With the strength of its retrospective force, I think this film will prove strong on rewatches, providing opportunity to fill in the gaps of a slightly problematic but still very intriguing present experience.

Dave liked this review