Friday, October 18, 2019
Pedro Almodóvar | Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory)
ghosts of the pastby Douglas Messerli
Pedro Almodóvar (writer and director) Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory) / 2019
Pedro Almodóvar’s most recent film, Dolor y Gloria or, in English Pain and Glory, is just what its title proclaims, a work of great pain and great enjoyment. The usually rather private director in this case has suddenly and rather subtly “come out,” so to speak about his past: his own illnesses, which include terrible back pain, headaches, and a continual problem in his tracheal passages which lead him to constantly choke; in the early scenes in this film it is almost like a conference between old people who cannot help but share their medical problems with one another: I’ve been there. In this case it’s somewhat comically (or not so comically, given your perspective) animated.
Some of the film’s most beautiful scenes, indeed, depict Mallo’s childhood, particularly concerning water. The women around him, including his mother, gather at the river to wash their sheets and clothing, drying them over the nearby shrubbery. It is the gentle streams, Almodóvar seems to suggest, that cleanses all the evils and imaginary fears of life.
It is apparent that all of Mallo’s old loves have returned, like ghosts come out of the closet, to help him reclaim his life and lead him on, perhaps through the very past which he now shuns, to a new film about the mirrors of his past.
Banderas reports that the rooms of Mallo’s cinematic house were very much like Almodóvar’s own home, and that some of the clothing he wore was actually shirts and pants from the director’s own closet. There is something both touching and haunting about this: a kind of open honesty and a somewhat frightening retreat to repetition in these facts. But then this is just what this completely revelatory piece of cinema is all about. Like his greatest films, All About My Mother and The Skin I Live In, this new film presents an all-too painful representation of desire and love, often a series of messy problems in real life. I believe this may be the great Spanish director’s best film to date.
Los Angeles, October 17, 2019
Reprinted from World Cinema Review (October 2019).