Friday, November 18, 2011


Review: Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In
117 mins, Rated R
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Only a visionary director can stamp a film with his signature in the first frame and, well…Pedro Almodovar is a visionary director. In his latest cross-genre feature, The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito), he returns to his early fascinations with the sexually perverse, conceptions of beauty, magical realism, and moral ambiguity. The first few minutes of the film establish its position in the history of art. The credits introduce time and place, Toledo, Spain – birthplace of legendary Spanish painter, El Greco – 2012. Already, Almodovar establishes an invisible cord between past and present, between the historical and the contemporary. The camera then follows a narrow path up to a secluded house, already alluding to the mansions of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and Citizen Kane – an allusion that is further strengthened with the discovery that deranged genius, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) houses a secret in the attic. Ledgard, played by a uncharacteristically nuanced and emotionally detached Banderas, walks up the grand staircases, past numerous oil paintings of reclining women. He enters his bedroom and sits in front of a massive screen, displaying yet another reclining body from behind. The camera scans the body and all the curves that define it as feminine. And although this screen, similar to the paintings, recalls the works of Ingres, nothing is as it seems. The screen is not a painting, but a surveillance camera, watching Ledgard’s caged prisoner: a beautiful woman called Vera (Elena Anaya). Robert’s unusual and confusing relationship with Vera is one of many secrets introduced at the outset of the film. As the plot unfolds, past and present are woven together, constantly revealing new elements (and new perversions) to the secrets. Almodovar delicately plants the seeds of the mystery throughout the film, which is – at points – difficult to follow, but – as is often the case in his films – there is a brilliant moment of revelation, where at once the clues make sense and the secret is revealed. In this case, the more knowledge, the more discomfort, as the film transitions from drama to a sci-fi psychological horror film. Still, there are elements of comedy, beauty, tenderness, tragedy, lust, and magical realism that only a director like Almodovar can handle (and get away with). The result is a film that is meticulously crafted, thoroughly uncomfortable, painfully beautiful, and – ultimately – heartbreaking. GO SEE IT.

1 comment:

  1. This review is brilliant. Up to the standard of Pauline Kael or James Agee. Almodovar needs to read this.