Saturday, July 14, 2012
More than Meets the Eye.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Written by: Pedro Almodóvar and Agustín Almodóvar, based on the novel 'Tarantula' by Thierry Jonquet
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo, Eduard Fernández, José Luis Gómez, Blanca Suárez.
Running time: 124 min
I'm always getting judged for the movies I like and the movies I watch. That's why I shy away from the question "what's a good movie?", unless I really know the person enough to predict how it'll all turn out for them. Otherwise, people will just look at me and go "you must be really stuffed in the head." The Skin I Live In is exactly the kind of film that I won't be phoning home about. But it isn't a film that left me totally indifferent. Far from it, in fact. I can see that a whole lot of other people would separate the strangeness of the main twist and the film itself. Yes, the twist comes as quite a shock. It's the kind of twist that I had to wonder whether it was successful because it was weird, or if it was just plain weird. However, there's a lot more to this movie than meets the eye. Which I guess is kind of the point of all the whole film.
The Skin I Live In has Antonio Banderas out of voicing the seediest cat in animated films and being in nothing but straight-to-DVD action flicks and into the skin of Dr. Robert Ledgard (and thank goodness, too), a brilliant plastic surgeon who is trying to create a synthetic skin that doesn't burn. He lives in a huge house in Toledo, Spain, experimenting in honour of his wife, who died from burns sustained in a flaming car accident. Also in the house is Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya, who is as beautiful as she is talented), who lives in a single room wearing a body sock, practising yoga and crafting stuff to pass time. We find that Ledgard is obsessed with this beautiful, mysterious woman he is holding captive in his house, as he has a camera on her at all times which he watches her on a huge screen. We're introduced to Vera's world and Ledgard's quest to create perfect skin, but we wonder what went on beforehand to create this rather bizarre situation. That is only the start of it.
Instead of telling us all the facts as if they were a list, Pedro Almodóvar goes back and forth between all of the little pieces that make up the puzzle. Admittedly, between the flashbacks of Ledgard's family and his daughter getting raped, and Ledgard's fixation on the rapist, along with a mysterious guinea pig that I couldn't quite recognise and a home invasion by a strange fellow dressed as a tiger who was then revealed to be Ledgard's brother, I had no idea where The Skin I Live In was going. It wasn't too long before the story started clicking into place, playing out like the ultimate creation instead of having only some assembly required. This gives Almodóvar time to explore the themes of loneliness, sexual identity, death, and possibly the most unique tale of revenge that I've ever seen. In other hands, this would have been the stuff that fits right into The Human Centipede's generation of horror. Almodóvar creates his macabre, ominous tale with elegance, kitsch and malevolence. Sometimes I felt as if he was laughing at us, as he lures us to all of these ludicrous places. The Skin I Live In is almost in a breed of it's own, playing out as a horror that dares you to get under your skin and make you question your own identity. Which is somewhat funny to see these days when horrors are all about scaring you with more blood and guts than are probably possible to be inside one person.
While I enjoyed The Skin I Live In, for some reason or another I didn't fall in love with it like many others have. It may be because I felt there was too much going on, and not enough of it seemed to meld together as well as I wanted it to. Still, The Skin I Live In was a very effective piece of art. Effective in a way that is so unique that you have to wonder whether this was a film made in a decade where everyone feels safe in the net of being just the same as everyone else. When someone pushes the envelope like this, it is a joy to behold.
What I got: