Pain and Glory

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Here is the privilege of artistic reputation: even your fallow periods may serve as fertile ground. When we meet filmmaker Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas, low-key and soulful as the stand-in for writer-director Pedro Almodóvar), he is floating underwater, eyes closed, motionless, not even a bubble escaping his nostril. An artist, suspended in stasis after being betrayed by his failing body? Or a new creation just waiting to be born, if only something would bring on the ordeal of labor? Why not both? The first contraction comes from mining the past: someone has cleaned up one of Mallo’s early works, and they’d like him to present it to the adoring world. He hits upon the idea of bringing in the film’s star, to whom he has not spoken since the premiere. Said star is still doing the heroin that caused the rift (the director preferred the energy conferred by cocaine), and Mallo finds that joining him in "chasing the dragon" helps to ease the pain — and also to bring on the dreamy memories of youth! And what do you know, he’s also written a monologue about losing his most beloved lover to the stuff, and the actor stumbles upon it… There’s plenty of artfulness on display in the intertwining of life and what gets made of it, but also a fair helping of artifice. Art imitating life, but also improving it a bit. (2019) — Matthew Lickona

Rated R | 1 hour, 48 minutes
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Better than his usual. Still, there is the obligatory gay character. (After all, this is Almodovar.) The story told in the flashbacks was of greater interest.

Oct. 24, 2019

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