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The Skin I Live In

Posted by martinteller on March 13, 2012

Almodovar’s darkest film since Bad Education and his best of the past 10 years, since Talk To Her.  He throws you in the middle of an intriguing puzzle and peels off the layers (like skin) to reveal one of the most beautifully fucked-up, exquisitely intricate tales I’ve seen in a long time.  Each stunning new angle to the story drew me deeper into its web, at times leaving me almost breathless.  Almodovar has always had a taste for convoluted plotlines heavy on melodramatic twists and this is one of his most satisfying — albeit disturbing — works yet.

I suspect many reading this are already way ahead of me on this one (as usual, I’m late to the party) but I’ll avoid spoilers just in case.  Basically it concerns Robert Ledgard, a doctor (Antonio Banderas) trying to repair the past with his guinea pig patient Vera (Elena Anaya).  A multi-faceted meditation on grief, revenge, control, identity and sexual crisis, Almodovar treats skin as both a shield and a prison.  He frequently populates the screen with images of skin or clothing or alternate skins, building on his motif without ever getting too self-consciously clever about it.  The compositions are striking, emphasizing the cold, clinical approach of Ledgard’s madness (one of a series of Almodovar characters driven to physical extremes by internal turmoil).

I don’t want to say Banderas is the weak link, it’s more that his character doesn’t allow for a particularly impressive range.  Some of it is pulled off in subtle facial expressions, but he’s overshadowed by Anaya, who gets to do much of the heavy lifting, acting-wise.  Inscrutable when she needs to be and brilliantly revealing when she needs to be, her performance won me over in a big way.  Longtime Almodovar associate Marisa Paredes also does a fine job in a small but important role.  In fact, I would have liked to see more done with her character, given her position in the story there could have been a lot more development there.

But the film is so wonderfully dense already, perhaps any more development would make it collapse.  It’s truly a marvelous experience.  With themes that follow in the footsteps of Cronenberg’s “body horror” films and Teshigahara’s The Face of Another, it’s thick with tension, rich with meaning, and masterful in its handling of information.  It doesn’t have Almodovar’s delightful sense of humor, but that really wouldn’t be appropriate here.  It’s a heavy film, not the kind of thing you can watch for casual entertainment… but I’ll be buying the Blu-Ray nonetheless.  Rating: Great


3 Responses to “The Skin I Live In”

  1. Jessica said

    I just want to chime in with a “yay!” This was one of my top movies of 2011. It’s just so strange that Spain didn’t nominate it for the Oscar. I think it should have won the foreign film category. (Yes, I rank it much higher than A Seperation.)

    Even if it’s a very spoiler sensitive movie, I can easily see myself rewatching it. With the mystery out of the way I could focus more on the details. I think this is a modern classic.

  2. The foreign film category in the Oscars is extremely messed up.

    It’s definitely one of my favorites from 2011 (although I still have many promising films to see, including A Separation). It sticks with you.

  3. […] 191. The Skin I Live In (2011, Pedro Almodovar) […]

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