Pain and Glory



17 November 2019| No Comments on Pain and Glory     by Sean Chavel


They say write what you know. But if there’s one story I do not need from a storyteller it’s another indulgent confessional of a pained film director’s life as he searches for his creative bug again. The benchmark for such creative duress is Fellini, through muse Marcello Mastroianni, with his b&w marvel about a director who dreams of liberated creative rebound in “8 1/2.” Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory Pis a fictional squawk, with his Antonio Banderas protagonist as a past his prime grouchy hermit artist living in Spain, weighed down by physical ailments, one addicted first to pain pills then heroin (he smokes it, no needles), and is somewhat agoraphobic. The film too is afraid, just like his protagonist, to get out and look at the world. Sure, we have a film about a tortured artist, yet even when levied by moments of truth, we have to spend a large time trapped indoors with the character.

Banderas is Salvador Mallo, a man who can barely muster up strength to attend a Q&A of a film revival. We see very little of the artist’s work except one shot from a so-called classic that looks as pretentious as something from a Lucrecia Martel film. His former lead actor carries much resentment over their artistic relationship, but at one point imparts forgiveness (among other things), and wants to resurrect a Mallo story treatment to use for a one-man theater show.

Mallo is disinterested in his old files. It’s yet another Almodovar film though where the people and haunts of the protagonist’s past return to spark and liven up a moribund character; for instance, one former gay lover makes a late night calling at Mallo’s home, and this supporting character whose history is comprised of being a restaurateur and bi-sexual family man who encourages his sons to live “free”, has a life that seems infinitely more interesting than Mallo’s.

The flashback scenes of Mallo’s childhood are most entrancing to me. As the mother, Penelope Cruz gives one of those wonderstruck supporting performances as a mother who charms people to do work for her, yet there’s never enough done to please her. The family grows up so poor they live in a cave (like depressed condos), which is embarrassing yet Cruz figures out a way to liven it up by turning it into a fresco. She is an earthy mom who is the embodiment of heaven on earth, when she’s not being a fussbucket.

Characters and memories flood in and churn out, this depressed director Mallo learns to think big thoughts again. There’s nothing wrong with Pain and Glory, per se. But I for one have seen too many movies in my day, too many sad ones that pile up like barbiturates, so if there’s going to be another sad sack movie it had better open my eyes to something I haven’t seen and turned me on to feeling something I haven’t yet felt.

113 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “8 1/2” (1963, Italy); “Day for Night” (1974, France); “Dangerous Game” (1993); “Gods and Monsters” (1998).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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