Starring Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Asier Etxeandia
Almodovar’s latest (he appears to be done with that whole “Pedro” thing) is a semi (largely?) autobiographical homage and love letter to the people and experiences that shaped him. With more than a passing nod to Cinema Paradiso, and his own body of work.
It is also one of his best realised movies, certainly his most moving and beautiful.
Longtime compatriot Banderas serves as the filmmaker’s avatar here, Salvador, a filmmaker past his prime and in declining health, increasingly finding himself lost in his memories and what brought him to the place he now finds himself in.
As with the majority of Almodvar’s movies, women prove to the dominant forces, and here Penelope Cruz (another longtime collaborator) exquisitely brings his mother back to life. But there are other elements at play too – lost lovers and early sexual experiences, all gorgeously captured with Jose Luis Alaine’s luscious photography. Not to mention Alberto Iglesias’s delicately understated score.
But it is a movie that deals as much with “now” as with “then” and draws Banderas’ finest performance from him, as the man once in love with his art and now not even really liking himself (a dalliance with heroin plays a key role.)
Not to say it is ever dour or prone to wallowing – this is a film rich in humour, suffused with heartbreak and, ultimately, redemptive. It sees Almodovar using an on-screen variation on himself out of touch with his own talents and abilities, whilst simultaneously being delivered by a man at the very height of his own powers. It is – even in its quietest, most understated moments – nearly always deeply emotional and profoundly moving. A love letter to cinema (note the Cinema Paradiso reference) but one that is presented by its actual delivery more than it subject matter.
And with Banderas and Cruz at their absolute finest, awards will follow. As will your tears.