Dolor y gloria
starring Antonio Banderas, Asier Exteandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Penélope Cruz
written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Varda par Agnès
directed by Agnès Varda
by Bill Chambers Salvador Mallo is first seen in hydrotherapy for his scarred back, lost in an underwater reverie. The lapping waves trigger a memory of his mother (Penélope Cruz, who must have a painting of herself rotting away in the attic) washing clothes in the river when he was just a boy. Played by Pedro Almodóvar discovery and muse Antonio Banderas, Salvador is an informally retired film director who dresses like Almodóvar, resides in Almodóvar's real-life apartment, and suffers a litany of ailments--spinal problems, tinnitus--much like Almodóvar's own. The kinkiness of Almodóvar's work has always made it seem personal and confessional, but with Pain and Glory he moves into the roman à clef territory of Bob Fosse's All That Jazz--although Pain and Glory is considerably more chill, treating even picking up a heroin habit in middle age as less self-destructive than incorrigible. Salvador is introduced to the drug while making amends with Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), star of his acclaimed Sabor ("Flavour"). Alberto is a long-time junkie; Salvador once held this against his performance in Sabor but no longer does, because time has altered his perception of it. The two agree to do a Q&A at a screening of the film's restoration, which, uh, doesn't quite go as planned but does lead to Alberto putting on an unpublished play that Salvador wrote, which leads to Salvador briefly reconnecting with Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), the old lover the play is about. This spurs him to be proactive about his health: Salvador realizes that he needs to get back to making art, because sharing this one story with others has turned out to be so much more rewarding than wallowing in nostalgia.