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Senior Citizen Kane Club: Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodóvar

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Exploring early memories as well as the challenges of growing older, Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar is back on our screens with a wistful, self-reflexive, deeply moving portrait of middle age. All his usual themes are present in this semi-autobiographical tale – sexual awakening, the iconic mother figure, Catholicism – delivered with his trademark flair, style and warmth.

"Lush, gorgeous and flamboyant..."

Our hero is filmmaker Salvador Mallo (a riff perhaps on Almodóvar’s own name – played by Antonio Banderas), who is recalling a series of experiences and encounters from his past: his childhood growing up in 1960s Valencia, his first love affairin ‘80s Madrid, the pain of heartbreak and his early discovery of cinema. But at this stage in his life, the glory of Salvador’s past is eclipsed by his current pain. His physical and psychological symptoms have a symbolic resonance which mirrors Salvador’s present state of inertia – the pain in his back matches his emotional inflexibility, the lump in his throat matching his creative writer’s block. In his gorgeous art-filled shrine of an apartment, Salvador is like the sad prince in a post-modern fairy-tale, surrounded by empty beauty and memories. Keen to bring some closure to past regrets, he reconnects, after 30 years of sullen silence, with the star of one of his early films, Alberto (Asier Etxeandia). The encounter and newfound friendship encourages Salvador to reassess his life, accept his flaws and maybe, finally move forward with what is left of his life.

Lush, gorgeous and flamboyant in its design, Pain and Glory is Almodóvar at his most introspective. Poignant and moving, its also a wonderful vehicle for the talents of his long-time collaborators Banderas and Penelope Cruz. As Salvador, Banderas gives the performance of his career (deservedly winning the Best Actor prize at Cannes in May) as the charming, vulnerable, and occasionally infuriating artist who rediscovers his creative spark by finally acknowledging his past.

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