PAIN AND GLORY – movie review

PAIN AND GLORY (Dolor y Gloria)
Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenwriter: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, César Vicente, Asier Flores, Penélope Cruz, Cecilia Roth, Susi Sánchez, Raúl Arévalo, Pedro Casablanc, Julián López
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 9/12/19
Opens: October 4, 2019

Image result for pain and glory movie poster

Dedicated Almodóvar fans may be disappointed with his latest venture, a thinly disguised biopic of his own life or, as the woman performing as his mother complains, afraid that auto-fiction will reveal too much. The director is known for pictures as daring as the titles such as his dark comedy “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (a woman seeks to discover the reason her lover left her); the romantic comedy “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” (a former mental patient kidnaps a porn star hoping to convince her to marry him); and the psychological thriller “The Skin I Live In” (a plastic surgeon experiments on a skin he develops to withstand damage). Now in his sixties Salvador (Antonio Banderas), standing in for Almodóvar, is wracked by ailments; by migraines, tinnitus, back pain after spinal surgery, and near the conclusion a potential tumor causing him to choke on food and drink. Aside from his physical pain, he feels isolated. His health prevents him from making movies, work which keeps him going and which, when halted, leaves him feeling isolated (as he shows early on immersed in water) and depressed. His life is not as interesting as his movies, but then again how could it be, considering that the director himself is A-list, one of the great living filmmakers of our time.

Nonetheless Almodóvar believes that a selective memoir could involve an audience. We see Salvador’s life divided into three periods: the 1960s as a nine-year-old boy; the 1980s, which is given the least amount of celluloid, where he has had an affair with Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia); and the current year when the suffering filmmaker depends on the care of his assistant Mercedes (Nora Navas). The narrative is not chronological. The man in the current year lives in a large house, cabinet painted bright red, filled with paintings that made one of his visitors think he was in a museum. Salvador frequently drifts off dreaming of what he may consider the idyllic time of his life, when though poor and living in a cave, he is excited by reading and gets his first sexual fantasy that is so strong that it knocks him off his feet.

This early segment is the most interesting unless you have been going to a series of doctors yourself trying to get a diagnosis that nobody can give you, and you relate strongly to the pain that Salva feels. The nine-year-old future filmmaker (Asier Flores) living with his patient mother Jacinta (Penélope Cruz) in a cave—not considered bad digs by the people of the village—is obviously a prodigy, playing piano, lead singer in the church choir where comic touches feature a few boys with atrocious voices, and teaching an illiterate painter Eduardo (César Vicente) to read. When Eduardo washes himself, barely covered by a towel, Salva faints with the intensity of the feeling and, yes folks, your nine-year-old has sexual feelings as well. His mother senses the attraction and hides a sensual painting that Eduardo does of her son.

Two men capture Salvador’s attention in the present years. Federico, with whom Salva had a love affair in the eighties, visits the ailing filmmaker after decades of separation. In an emotional scene they reminisce about those good years and part with a long kiss. And Alberto (Asier Etxeandia), an actor who visits, having appeared in a Salvador’s eighties picture and has not spoken with his director after being insulted by him thirty-two years back. He introduces Salvador to heroin—which for the movie audience supplies the beauty of Salva’s dreams of his childhood. Having not acted in years and feeling as useless as Salvador, Alberto finds purpose in delivering a monologue on the stage, witnessed by Salvador’s former lover Federico.

Though this is arty theater, there is nothing difficult to follow in case you happen upon the film and as a lover of commercial movies may never have heard of Almodóvar. It approaching the stereotypical French style by being talky, and it’s good talk, much delivered with hallucinatory images in Salvador’s mind. As in all of the director’s films, we are treated to his basic themes of desire, passion, family and identity all against bright, colorful backgrounds. If you’re over 60, you have likely been exposed to the vicissitudes of life: the pain that tags along with the glory. If a teen, you recall the desires of a young person often unfulfilled because of innocence. And parts of the film may reflect the melodrama that accompanies you during the most exciting, yet anxiety-producing moments.

113 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

EVERYBODY KNOWS – movie review

EVERYBODY KNOWS (Todos lo saben)
Focus Features
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net by: Harvey Karten
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Screenwriter: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernandez, Barbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 1/23/19
Opens: February 8, 2019

Todos lo saben Movie Poster

The long-running TV series “Cheers” features the bar as a character in its own right, the bar where everybody knows your name. Many of us would be overjoyed to meet almost daily in a place so friendly, but there is a limit. If everybody knows your name, that’s fine. But would you like everybody to know everything about you? This is the situation in Torrelaguna, an autonomous region of Spain’s Madrid community where Asghar Farhadi’s latest film was photographed. It has the small-town ambiance despite its proximity to the nation’s capital, a fair-sized segment of land given over to a vineyard which is co-owned by Paco (Javier Bardem), a gentleman who will figure greatly in the plot.

“Everybody Knows” is the first movie in Spanish from the Iranian director. Farhadi, whose principal work in my opinion is “A Separation”—about whether a couple will provide a better life for their child by moving out of Iran or whether they should stay in their home country to treat a father with dementia—this time focuses on a large community involving an extended family, groups of neighbors, and an assortment of grade pickers working in a vineyard. At first, the film could be taken as a lively documentary about how people celebrate a wedding, the family members drinking as they would in just about any event of its kind. This looks like a group that seem as close and friendly as you would hope to have in your neighborhood. But when a kidnapping occurs, fissions become active, leading to fights involving Antonio (Ramón Barea), the elderly father of Laura (Penélope Cruz), who is said to have gambled away his share of the vineyard.

Imagine yourself at a large wedding, a friend of the bride who has only a faint idea of the guests invited by the groom. This is the situation you’ll find yourself in while watching the celebration. Allow some time to figure out who is married to whom, who may have fathered someone outside of marriage, who is the young man flirting with the young woman, and then some. After a half hour or so, you’ll get an idea of how everyone fits in, especially the situations of Laura and her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín), who spend most of their time in Buenos Aires and travel up to Madrid only for special occasions and brief visits. Some of the principals are afflicted with problems of their own making. Old man Antonio—Laura’s father, remember?—is a drunk who lost his land. Alejandro is a friend of the bottle as well and is unemployed, having gone to Germany to look for a job without success. Paco has a secret life that everyone in the small community knows about.

The kidnapping of high-spirited Irene (Carla Campra), a teen who is drugged at the celebration and kidnapped by what looks like an inside job, is employed by writer-director Farhadi to turn the movie a psychological thriller while at the same time the crime is a catalyst to expose the family secrets. Some of the action borders on soap opera, but a more refined soap than you get on the afternoon TV shows here. When you think about the crime, you try to guess who from the wedding is involved. When you think about the families, you’re in the sphere, of course, of family drama. Dysfunction abounds. The crime aspects are gripping, enough so that you’ll barely notice that two and one-quarter hours have passed since you watched the opening credits amid the background of a church bell tower. Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem have the chemistry you’d expect from two first-grade actors who in real life are married to each other since 2010 (two children), while the entire ensemble portray their qualities in a flawless fashion. The two principals aside, there’s little doubt that “Everybody Knows” is an ensemble piece, eminently watchable, allowing us to project our own lives into the bittersweet muddle that comprise this fine drama.

133 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

TRUMAN – movie reveiw

  • TRUMAN

    Film Rise
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
    Grade: B+
    Director:  Cese Gay
    Written by: Cese Gay, Tomas Aragay
    Cast: Ricardo Darín, Javier Cámara, Dolores, Fonzi, Eduard Fernandez, Alex Brendemuhl
    Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/11/17
    Opens: April 7, 2017
    Truman Movie Poster
    When H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff, was diagnosed with cancer, he refused treatment based on his Christian Science faith.  One should not assume, though, that a person who has a terminal condition must be an acolyte of some religion to determine whether to treat it aggressiveness or not.  In the case of Cese Gay’s movie “Truman,” Julián (Ricardo Darín) is told that he has lung cancer which has spread.  Though the doctor recommends chemotherapy, he admits that further treatment will do nothing more than to buy the middle-aged man some time, so, like Haldeman, Julían, presumably a Roman Catholic, has his own way of dealing with the dread disease.

    Yet Julían is fortunate in having a friendship since childhood with Tomás (Javier Cámara), and the two find a way to say goodbye without Hollywood-style sentiment but obviously with hugs and good conversation before Julían an actor currently performing Molière in Madrid, makes his final exit.

    “Truman” is largely a two-hander that allows the dying man to make up for past indiscretions, as when he apologizes to a man whose wife he slept with and who has no problem greeting Julían in a restaurant. We see why: the cuckold is currently with a young squeeze undoubtedly better looking and more dynamic than the ex-wife.   As Tomás and Julían make the rounds of Madrid (mostly filmed in Barcelona), they stop in on a funeral salon, giving film director Cese Gay the opportunity to send up the pretensions of the profession.  Inquiring with the proprietor about the options, Julían is astonished that if he is cremated, he will fit inside a small urn, but insists that his ashes should not be tossed into the sea.  It’s cool that a man in what could be his last month on earth could joke.

    However, none of this is what is really bothering Julían.  He is worried that after his death, his loyal boxer Truman (Troilo)—who is so phlegmatic that it looks like he will predecease his human companion—nobody will be willing to adopt an old dog.  He even asks the vet for psychological insight: whether a dog can be depressed after the loss of his human.  This leads him to interview two women who seem to love dogs but who will prove unqualified.  (In a scene near the conclusion, he finds the ideal person to take the boxer off his hands.)

    Director Gay evokes the most drama when the two friend fly to Amsterdam to make a surprise visit on Nico (Oriol Pla) Julían’s son in college, where they meet his girlfriend.  Yet Julían decides not to tell the boy about his illness.

    Cesc Gay, whose “Nico and Dani” focus on two seventeen-year-olds with a beach house all to themselves and who enjoy a sexual awakening, this time is intent on showing what is probably a realistic portrait of a dying man’s actions and wishes. The film enjoys the male chemistry of the two pals with the input of Ricardo Darín, one of Argentina’s major actors today.  Poignant side roles involve José Luis Gomez as the theater director who fires Julían, Javier Gutierrez as the mortuary sales director, and Dolores Fonzi as Julían’s ex-girlfriend.

    Despite the subject matter, this is thankfully not one of those three-hanky Hallmark dramas, but a serio-comic look at a subject that many people simply refuse to talk about.

    Unrated.  109 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?