Over the course of a career that spans four decades, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has crafted comedies, farces and melodramas, besides provocative variations on other genres. His latest feature Pain and Glory is an elegiac exploration of the therapeutic value of art, love and cinema in particular.

The movie follows ageing auteur Salvador Mallo (Almodovar’s frequent collaborator and alter-ego Antonio Banderas, in the performance of a lifetime) as he attempts to cope with a creative impasse as well as myriad health issues including debilitating muscular atrophy.

From its stunning opening shot of the careworn Salvador floating underwater in a swimming pool to its melancholic final sequence in which present and past and autobiographical and fictional elements mesh seamlessly, this ranks alongside All About My Mother and Talk to Me among Almodovar’s finest films.

As in nearly all his work, the art direction and colour palette are a visual delight. Recreated in a studio, Salvador’s apartment is reportedly modelled on Almodovar’s own home in Madrid.

The incisive script, by the director himself, is replete with Salvador’s encounters with former colleagues, friends and ex-lovers. There are vivid memories too of his rural childhood spent with his doting mother (a luminous Penelope Cruz).

Expectedly, Almodovarian thematic touchstones – mortality, motherhood, obsessive desires and the multiplicity of sexual identity – abound.

An auto-fiction of unusual candour and compassion, Pain and Glory consolidates the 70-year-old Almodovar’s reputation as a titan not only of contemporary Spanish but also global cinema.

Pain and Glory (2019).