On 23 August 2019, the UK open-air premiere of Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film Pain and Glory was warmly received by an audience at Somerset House that included celebrities such as artist Yinka Shonibare and fashion designer Pam Hogg. The film stars beloved Spaniard Antonio Banderas as an ageing film director, Salvador Mallo, who is suffering from creative block and spends much of the 113 minute running time looking back on his past and mulling over his life and relationships. The film is composed of scenes of Salvador’s present day suffering spliced with childhood memories spent with his doting mother (Penélope Cruz) in the stunning rural landscapes of Valencia. Now at the end of his career, Salvador has written an autobiographical story called Addiction which deals with a love affair he had long ago. When Salvador is reunited with an estranged actor, Alberto (Asier Etxendia), his professional and private lives become intertwined as Alberto wants to stage Addiction, blurring Salvador’s lines between art and reality.

The film has been dubbed the final instalment in an ‘unplanned trilogy’ which features Law and Desire (1987) and Bad Education (2004). Much like previous works, Pain and Glory has been applauded for its use of bright and vibrant colour compositions that have become characteristic of the Spanish film titan’s style. Critics also commend the presence of poignant themes from other Almodóvar favourites with the audience bearing witness to melodrama, comedy, theatrical monologues and exhilarating climatic sequences. The on-screen action teleports viewers from the bright lights of vibrant Madrid to the tranquil, rolling hills of rural Paterna in ValenciaIn true Almodóvar style, the director delicately portrays his lead character delving deep into his past with viewers admiring the juxtaposition of the traditional, humble way of life in rural Spain compared to the hustel and bustle of Spain in the modern era on Salvador's voyage of self-discovery.

In its first week on screens in the UK, the autobiographical elements have drawn rave reviews from critics who identify many parallels between Almodóvar and his on-screen persona given their chosen career paths, aspects of their personal lives, and finer details that more eagled-eyed viewers have picked up on; such as the fact that Salvador’s apartment is packed with all the same artwork as Almodóvar’s own personal collection. Not to mention that ‘Salvador Mallo’ is a somewhat twisted anagram of the director’s name containing all the letters of ‘Almodóvar’. In fact, Almodóvar himself states that the art, coupled with the soundtrack, is “one of the most autobiographical aspects of the film”.

Pain and Glory is widely available in UK cinemas and provides Britons with the chance to experience first-hand an instant European cinema classic complete with all the Spanish cultural nuances that gave rise to one of Europe’s most illustrious film directors.


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