Archive for the ‘Addiction’ Category

Pain And Glory

08 Nov

Pain and Glory—directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Drama. 113 minutes Color 2019. ★★★★★
The Story: A renown film director in retreat from his calling faces the remote and nearer past.
Why do we watch with unvarying attention this film which has no plot and no discernible story?

Whatever can be said about the director’s treatment of his material, it is too integrated to sit back and grasp. So too the writing. The editing. Of course Almodóvar is also a film director, but who cares enough about that or him to situate him in place of the character up on the screen?

Do we care whether he will ever direct a film again? Perhaps it lodges as the only issue for suspense, but does it matter to us as we see that particular actor play a director called Mello? Do we care about his hypochondria? How silly and self-indulgent all that seems, just some sort of alibi. Do we care about his increasing drug addiction? Of course not. We all intuitively know that addiction is not a subject for drama any more than it is a proper subject for therapy, since addiction turns humans into robots, and drama is not a subject for robots but for humans.

And so it goes.

Why are we placing our unvarying interest in this film as we watch it?

The cause is a combination of all the forces above aligned by the director—set design, cinemaphotography, editing, and writing—to entertain us so richly we cannot pay an attention to them that veers away from the energy and eyes of the main character and the actor who plays him, Antonio Banderas.

Will I spoil the surprise ending for you by telling you the film has one? That last scene tells you why all the issues above are begged. It also thrusts you back into devoting one’s respect for the actor where it is due and intended.

Banderas is an actor, like Richard Burton, always on reserve, always holding back, indeed so used to holding back that it does not occur either to him or to you that he he is holding back. And that is the story of his character’s nature, as we see it unfold and not unfold before us. Reserve is Banderas’ habit. Which he wears like a habit.

Indeed, there is a homosexual content to this film that you never suspect for a minute until halfway through it emerges as natural as dawn.

All we know about this character is that he suffers. And we also know not why but that in his circumstances we too would suffer. Until we see, one by one, his causes for suffering dissolve into non-issues.

Which does not mean they are not real.

They are. Banderas makes them so. We participate with him in cooperating with this film with the attention to it that makes it fine.

Also, of course, there exists the strength of the garish palette of Almodóvar. So, for a time, I allow myself to live in a scab-red kitchen and amid the blatant chromolithographic forces of his pictures which scatter from our notions of such subject matter the impression that reality must be banal to be true. No, their reality is as solid and vivid as their colors.

The title of the film provides this is as the first fact to be faced. So is the presence of the vivid Penélope Cruz. Pain is not the way to translate “dolor”. “Sorrow” is the translation. No one is in pain here. Everything is recoverable.

There is much to say about this film and the films of Pedro Almodóvar, and I have here said none of it. I leave those words to your conversations with your friends after you have enjoyed yourself in its spell.


Pleasure Unwoven

17 Dec

On Amazon, visit: to read Christmas Day In The Morning, a jolly holiday tale for the whole family. And get your free Kindle application to boot.

Pleasure Unwoven –- Kevin McCauley. Lecture. A student of addiction, Mr. McCauley presents his case for the Disease model of addiction by tracking its structure. 70 minutes Color 2009.
Kevin McCauley makes it easy and attractive for us to register his analyses by presenting them as he moves through the spectacular landscape of wild Utah and by unexpected visual examples.

He offers us the Choice model first, a model with the moral weight attached to it which says that because addicts can “choose” to not take their drug-of-choice (as the saying goes), they are morally reprehensible for choosing it. Put a literal gun to the head of the addict, and the addict will decline the drug. Yes, of course he will. Point is that there is no literal gun to the head of an addict, so his example does not fully illustrate the argument, and it becomes a sitting duck when the time comes to refute it. No, not a sitting duck. A decoy duck.

But he then to prove the Disease model of addiction he tracks the brain system which creates the infrastructure of addiction. This is his bias, and why not? The brain patterns and the hormonal influences which direct and confirm those patterns he clearly and effectively illustrates for us, and they are important, for anyone who is an addict or who is concerned with the phenomenon of addiction, to follow and to know. And, indeed, they do prove that addiction is a disease.

That it is a disease helps to legitimize its treatment and take addiction out of the realm of criminal or moral conduct. After all, no one chooses addiction as a career choice, but that is what it becomes for the addict. McCauley also makes a useful distinction between behavioral addiction such as gambling and sex and addiction to substances, such as to drugs and alcohol.

He also limns in the peril of cross/addiction, such as to food with sex, or marijuana with cocaine, our taking up one when the other is sober, and then see-sawing back. His illustration of the number of these addictions and their substances is astonishing. Relating damage to the middle-brain and outer-brain and their symptoms he proves his “disease” denomination (although I feel the term “disease,” is not as helpful as it would be to say “condition,” like diabetes, one which requires a daily remedy). All this is good and useful.

What he does leave out from his consideration is the cause of the repetitive nature of addiction. Yes, the brain pattern gets established, but what part of the brain makes it compulsive –– returning over and over again, despite our wanting to stop?

The answer lies in the phenomenon that we survive by compulsion: the heart beats compulsively, the breath breathes compulsively, the digestion digests compulsively. Compulsivity makes us live. Behavior-addiction and drugs enter into that system of holy compulsivity and pollute it to a point where we can barely live. However, while compulsivity is not addressed by McCauley’s excellent clarifications, many important matters are, and the film of him giving them to us is absolutely worthwhile.

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