Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for September 2nd, 2019

Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory) *****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 2nd September, 2019

Dolor y gloriaIt might sound like a truism, but many film directors are in love with the art of making films. This is particularly true of what the French call films d’auteur, in which the director’s artistic personality is a core element. Though there are some North American directors whose work falls into that category — interestingly more often Canadian than American, in my experience — the genre for me is quintessentially European. We can all rattle off a list of greats, particularly from France and Italy. And of course Pedro Amodóvar from Spain. When I watched his high-camp romp Los amantes pasajeros (I’m So Excited, 2013) I feared he may have gone off the boil, but if anyone else thought that Almodóvar had passed his peak, they should go to see his latest release Dolor y gloria. The central character is clearly at least partly autobiographical: a film director in late middle age who is plagued by several ailments, physical and psychological. He is still handsome in a grey fox type of way (Antonio Banderas was the natural choice of actor and executes his role brilliantly) but distinctly going a bit to seed. He is lacking inspiration for any new project and repeatedly turns down invitations to festivals and social events, yet one such invitation prompts him to contact an actor with whom he fell out two decades earlier, a superannuated hippy who regularly uses heroin. Somehow this encounter triggers a reflective mood in the director, as he remembers his impoverished childhood living in a village of cave dwellings where he had a shocking realisation of sexual attraction when he saw a young house-painter taking a bath. The whole setting and handling of his childhood, as well as a subsequent echo of that experience, is elegiac. Later another man who was probably the love of his life fleetingly re-enters it. Little wonder, given the exquisite pace of the film and the sensitivity of the direction, with occasional little twists of humour that leaven the pathos, that one is put in mind of Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. This is a film that will not easily be forgotten.


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