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By the way the travel through Spain is very romantic.
This is a charming story with fun little vignettes (Maggie Smith exiting a "loo" unknowingly trailing toilet paper stuck to her heel) and clever dialogue throughout, set against a trip through beautiful scenery by bus and bicycle.
The camera, and we the viewer, are not observers watching a sequence of events, as is usually the case with American cinema. Rather, as the characters unfold and interact on their travels in Spain, we are sharing the moods of the characters as they dance before our eyes. The hero from America and the heroine from England by chance find a common life and love in the moods of Spain and the moods of European cinema.
Look at the picture on screen and feel the mood; then in your mind link that to the words and events.
A masterpiece much misunderstood.
And they're not the only eccentrics in the story. There's a wonderful scene where MAGGIE SMITH gets advances from a man who fancies himself a bird whistler and whose idea of a courtship is to present himself at her hotel room with his favorite bird on his shoulder. "I like fish," she tells him after a wacky scene where she has to put up all of her resistance against his pursuit of romance. Another funny sequence has a titled nobleman living in a castle making the same sort of attempt to lure Smith into a romantic liaison.
But the film really belongs to the bewildering relationship between the repressed Maggie (who reveals later that she has a fatal illness), and the young man from a wealthy family of over-achievers who just wants to get away from family control over his destiny. He finds a kindred spirit in Smith but admits to her that she can be "a pain in the ass" at times. Both find themselves in a lot of foolish situations.
All of it is done with expert timing from both leads who turn in finely nuanced performances amid some hysterically funny scenes that will have you gasping for breath at the absurdity of it all.
Unfortunately, the script flounders badly toward the end and overall the story loses the satisfaction of some of the earlier moments in telling an unusual tale of a May/September romance. It could have used a bit more editing before release and never became a huge hit with the public.
The color photography in Verona and Madrid is gorgeous, and the story benefits from a sense of humor that never lets up as we follow their misadventures across the Spanish landscape in rain and shine. All of the supporting performances are first rate.
As opposed to other commentators I found the script married perfectly with believability as well as drama in that I just watched the film and, in its slow pace, let the peacefulness of the film roll over me. The slow pace of the film allowed me to admire the cinematography which I thought was exemplary in that the slowness allowed the viewer to take moments looking at the scene. This quietness allowed the camera shots to become beautiful stills with an existence on their own. The director chose the shots but the cinematographer decided what to do with the shot selected and his decisions were generally perfect.
Other commentators found the story too improbable but we let the mood of the film envelope us. The motivations of the two characters could easily be seen. The scenario many not be the most common but the circumstances of the story could easily find traction in many situations.
We loved the film; it was so different from the mindless junk being served to us by Hollywood today.
The lovers are blissful - then, a tragic secret is revealed...
With director Alan J. Pakula and his co-stars at career peaks, it's surprising to find "Love and Pain (and the whole damn thing)" was not at least a moderate success during its hesitant 1972 release. It's features good performances and pretty Spanish scenery. Apparently, the film was recognized for its relative fault; compared to the output produced by the notable filmmakers, it was uncommonly dull. It is also intentionally interjected with comedy, with Smith sometimes appearing clumsy when she should be staid.
****** Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (4/19/73) Alan J. Pakula ~ Maggie Smith, Timothy Bottoms, Jaime de Mora, Charles Baxter