Sunday, December 1, 2019

Pedro Almodóvar's “Pain and Glory” at SIFF Cinema: Nov 8 - Dec 12

The new century has been one of continuously productive activity for Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, his "Talk to Her", "Volver", and "The Skin I Live In", all appeared on numerous films of the decade overviews. This summer he delivered yet again with what may be one of his most sensuous and deeply personal entries on an ageing filmmaker facing up to his life and legacy. Film Comment's "Lost and Found: Pedro Almodóvar Taps into the Anguish and Eroticism of Memory", utilizes the sublimity of remembrance found in Fellini's "8 1/2" as the psycho-structural template that would inspire other feats of abstracted self examination by directors on screen. Historically they are few. Andrei Tarkovsky’s "The Mirror", Terence Davies’ "The Long Day Closes", a recent example found in Joanna Hogg’s "The Souvenir", stand as successful autobiographical movies applying inner metacinematic technique to overcome the potentially indulgent pitfalls of recreation, imagination, and repesentational authenticity. The clues of "Pain and Glory"'s fictionalized self portrait are there for all to see; Antonio Banderas wears Almodóvar colorful attire of bold leather, floral shirts, and is coifed with a unruly mass of greying hair. Even the art adorning the walls of his home are borrowed from the director's own collection. His character's personal life and memories are also in sync with episodes we know from Almodóvar's career. Kickstarting the physically and artistically stagnant late-life crisis of its protagonist into motion, the film builds itself around a restoration of a film he produced 32 years earlier. Precisely the same number of years that have passed since 1987's "Law of Desire", Almodóvar's sixth feature film.

These parallels are further reaffirmed in Carlos Reviriego's interview with the director on the occasion of this past summer's Cannes Film Festival, with a expanded feature following in the September October issue of Film Comment. In all of his filmmography, there has been no onscreen representation of Almodóvar's essence than Salvator Mallo, played to exquisitely resigned perfection by Bandares. This role of a lifetime for Banderas won him Best Actor at the film's Cannes premier. This intersection of "Life Meets Art in Almodóvar's Wistful Extravaganza", is as ever for the director, a film about pleasure. Yet this time it is tinged with the issues of aging and health, disassociation from friends and culture, and a deep stirring of the sediment of memory. In this reactivating of Salvator's relationship to his art, "Pain and Glory" is about the making of film and the telling of a life's story through the source of the director's inspirations; lovers, memory, painting, poetry, and the making of film itself. This self referential and intertextual assembly and a film within a film, a dream within a dream, and the resulting story within a story operates on it's own self-perpetuating internal mechanism. In another director's hands this would be potentially off-putting and indulgent, but Almodóvar's masterful handling, and the slow revealing of the film's true nature, flow in a continuous stream of seductive and sensual motion directing the viewer to it's elliptical conclusion.