By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
My first exposure to Pedro Almodovar, like a lot of Americans, was college, and I get a double dose between Spanish and Foreign Film. I fell in love with masterpieces such as All About My Mother and especially Talk to Her, and learned to accept the frequent soapy melodrama and telenovela eccentricity as a hallmark of his work.
Accept- not always buy
When I heard he was doing a mad scientist-driven horror/thriller, I was on board… and ready for some craziness. In a nutshell, Antonio Banderas plays a reknowned plastic surgeon who lost his wife after a tragic accident, and who faces tragedy again with his poor crazy daughter. His response? A little Frankenstein here, a little Hostel there… and voila! The Skin I Live In.
This movie is demented. It examines gender, male/female power structures, and revenge in admittedly disturbing but undeniably unique ways, all wrapped up in the typical Almodovar soap opera package. As always, it’s beautifully shot, full of gorgeous, cold and clinical closeups, in particular of the human form. And as always, the openly gay Almodovar shoots the female body with a loving touch, one that is employed to its utmost in this film.
And when the subject is Elena Anaya, I’m not going to complain
Anaya appears to be his new muse by the way, replacing Penelope Cruz, in this film at least. She even has some obvious similarities, in particular that girlish yet mature voice, and she holds her own on the acting front as well. The real story acting-wise, though, is Banderas, who jumps into his deranged character’s skin with glee. He’s by turns empathy-inducing and absolutely chilling, showing a talent that has rarely been on display in his U.S. blockbusters. Also, he gets to deliver a line that every actor one day aspires to:
Now I’m going to light this opium pipe… and smoke it.
The one performance I didn’t care for very much is the insane daughter. She conveys her mental frailty solely with hysterics, and it gets old pretty quickly. Honestly, the entire reason for her role in the film, minus an obvious impetus for something Banderas arguably was heading for anyway, is beyond me.
For all of the soapy craziness of this feature, once all of the main twists have fallen it progresses fairly conventionally all the way to an end that was more telegraphed than Samuel Morse’s sexual prowess.
What do you think all of those medals are for?
It doesn’t quite have the impact of some of his masterpieces, but Pedro Almodovar’s latest is still quite worth your time.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever anyone’s in surgery
Take a Drink: whenever someone’s nekked
Drink a Shot: for every rape and/or violation. You’ll need it.