Review of The Skin I Live In.
THE SKIN I LIVE IN reunites Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodóvar in thrilling fashion.
Movie violence, at least in the hands of Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar, can be a beautiful thing. In fact, every image, camera angle and set detail throughout Almodóvar's latest movie The Skin I Live In is stylish, elegant and stunning to behold.
Artful moviemaking is what fans expect from Almodóvar after thirty-one years of directing, going to back to his first feature film Pepi, Luci, Bom.
What's fresh with The Skin I Live In, a loose adaptation of the 2003 novela Tarantula (Mygale) by Thierry Jonquet, is watching Almodóvar try his hand at gothic horror while remaining true to his tradition of melodrama.
The Skin I Live In is also a triumphant reunion for Almodóvar and actor Antonio Banderas (they last worked on the 1990 comedy Tie Me Up!
Tie Me Down!). The two Spanish veterans bring out the best in each other. Almodóvar makes powerful use of Banderas' handsome looks and cultured presence to create a powerful take on the mad scientist character.
Wealthy and well-regarded plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas) practices his experimental skin-transplant surgery at his private operating room at his secluded Toledo home.
Vera (Elena Anaya) is his beautiful prisoner with strangely smooth, artificial skin and the ongoing subject of his private experiments.
Ledgard may be Vera's tormentor but he's also something more as their relationship grows into something more complex than the captor-captive dynamic.
It's a wonderfully twisting complexity that runs throughout the movie, partly a horror film in the spirit of Georges Franju's classic horror Eyes Without a Face, about a plastic surgeon obsessed with grafting the faces onto his disfigured daughter, but also part of Almodóvar's career-long melodrama catalogue and homage to Hitchcock and Buñuel.
Veteran actress Marisa Paredes provides a spark of drama as Ledgard's housekeeper and confidant.
Still, the film's passion and creepy sensuality belong to Banderas, who slowly pulls back the curtain on Ledgard and show him to be mad as he watches the action on his massive home cinema screens.
Newcomer Elena Anaya matches the physical demands of playing Vera and goes one step further by capturing the confusing dynamic of her strange but loving relationship with her captor. It's an astounding, pivotal performance.
Alberto Iglesias complements the storytelling with a Hitchcock- inspired score and art director Carlos Bodelón and cameraman José Luis Alacaine make every scene sparkle.
Yet, as is the case with Almodóvar's best movies, its melodramatic plot takes precedence and it's the rich, intentionally bizarre storytelling that matters most of all.
Eye-covering tension mounts throughout the movie and layers of mystery unravel around Almodóvar's favorite themes involving sexual identity, ethical conduct and obsession.
The Skin I Live In is gothic horror, but gothic horror as imagined by the wonderful and outrageous mind of Pedro Almodóvar.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Blanca Suarez, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes
Screenwriter: Pedro Almodóvar, with Augustín Almodóvar, from the original novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cinematographer: José Luis Alcaine
Editor: José Salcedo
Producers: EL DESEO D.A.
Running Time: 117 minutes
Rating: Rated R
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2012 in New York and Los Angeles, expands nationwide throughout the fall