In ‘Pain and Glory,’ Almodóvar shows how one begets the other

Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria), Pedro Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical triptych about the life of an aging movie director, opens at the Angelika in Greenwich Village and Landmark 57 in Hell’s Kitchen on Friday, October 4, 2019.

Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria)

Artists thrive on pain. Suffering puts us in the emotional state necessary to create. There is the ache of desire that inspired every love song there ever was or will be. There is the ache of love lost that moves an artist to create. There is the ache of memory and the creeping aches of old age, that naked fear of oblivion that reminds us of happier, more fluid times when everything was possible and we did the impossible. If only we could find the muse again.

Pain and Glory has all of this for they are flip sides of the same coin. The film is a loose retelling of Almodóvar’s life and also a story of his Spanish homeland.


Almodóvar was born in a small town in south-central Spain in 1949.

These were the Franco years and all sorts of desires were brutally repressed. Franco’s Spain was outcast and isolated like North Korea is today.

When you have nothing, all you have is desire. The young man was filled with the ache.


In 1975 Franco died and everything changed. Spaniards took a collective deep breath and set about figuring out what it meant to be Spanish and free.

This was democracy and young Spaniards searched for the limits of freedom. Everything that had been forbidden was now permitted. It was a brief time of brightly colored pop art, recreational drugs and sexual experimentation before AIDS began stealing the fun away like a bank of clouds on a sunny day.

This was when Almodóvar began making movies. He became the leading cultural figure of what we now call La Movida Madrileña (the Madrid Movement).

In the way of Latin men, Pedro adored his mother. She always seems to be present in his movies. He understood women, sometimes better than women themselves. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. All About My Mother (1999) and Talk to Her (2002) won Academy Awards.


Fast forward and a Spain that once conquered the world and vibrated with life in the 1980s is slightly adrift waiting for its muse.

Twenty movies later, Almodóvar was sixty-seven. In his seventieth year, the director shows us all the pain and glory of a full and storied life. He answers his own question of what to do next.

A Paella of Great Spanish Actors

An Almodóvar movie is always a paella of great Spanish actors, many of whom have worked together many times for the director.

Antonio Banderas stars as the director Salvador Mallo. For this he won Best Actor at Cannes.

Penélope Cruz plays the young filmmaker’s mother.

Julieta Serrano who worked on several of Almodóvar’s 1980s hits is back after thirty years. She plays his older mother.

The young flamenco star Rosalía has a small part as Rosita. Her singing voice is unmistakable.

Pain and Glory Synopsis

Pain and Glory tells of a series of reencounters experienced by Salvador Mallo, a film director in physical decline. Some of them in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the 60s, when he emigrated with his parents to a village in Valencia in search of prosperity, the first desire, his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s, the pain of breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable, the early discover of cinema, and the void, the infinite void created by the incapacity to keep on making films.

Pain and Glory talks about creation, about the difficulty of separating it from one’s own life and about the passions that give it meaning and hope. In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.

In the beginning of life we dream of glory and in the end the only hope we have left is some form of salvation. Pain gave us glory and glory gave us pain.

Buen viaje (Safe journey).

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