The storyline is simply described as “a film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him”. The film narrates a series of reencounters of Salvador Mallo, a film director in his decline. Some of these reencounters are physical, some others are remembered: his childhood in the 1960s, when he emigrated together with his family to Valencia in search of prosperity, the first “deseo” (desire), his first adult love In Madrid in the 1980s, the pain of the breakup of this relationship, writing as a therapy to forget, the premature discovery of cinema, and so on.
The Castilian director chose to work with his usual cast: Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Julieta Serrano and others. His film takes place entirely in Spain, as characters travel back and forth throughout different regions of the country as they grow old. Almodovar once told DMovies that he “he used geographic extremes of Spain in order to emphasise the isolation of the characters”.
You wouldn’t be able to make the story out by watching the film trailer, which is in reality a patchwork of random images from the film. A heavily bearded Antonio Banderas looks like a young Pedro Almodovar, suggesting that the film is indeed highly autobiographical. The inevitable comparison, of course, is Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece 8 1/2. Both films centre on a film director in decline played by an ageing heartthrob from the same country as the real filmmaker (Marcello Maistroianni, in Fellini’s film).
Almodovar has a long history of celebrating filmmaking. Nearly all of his films are teeming with intertext and references to other movies. All About My Mother (1999) is a very explicit reference to All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950), with the Hollywood classic shortly played within the film. In Bad Education (2004), Almodovar apparently paid tribute to himself by closing the film with a very clear allusion to his own predicament as a filmmaker. This time he wishes to go even further. Let’s just hope he doesn’t slip into cliches and instead delivers a solid and masterful piece, similar to Julieta (2017).
Dolor y Gloria is scheduled for theatrical release in Spain on Friday, March 22nd. No UK date has been arranged yet.