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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Skin I Live In Review

The Skin I Live In Review
2011, 117 minutes
Rated R for disturbing violent content including sexual assault, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use, and language

      What happens when you mix rape, murder, obsession, drugs, sex, nudity, cruelty, and a mad scientist?  The Skin I Live In.  The Skin I Live In is the new film from director Pedro Almodóvar starring Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya.  It follows Dr. Robert Legard, a scientist whose wife was burned in an accident and because of that, he keeps a woman, Vera (Anaya), as his prisoner/patient to test making an indestructible skin for her.  And that's all I'm going to tell you.  This new film by Almodóvar is completely different and very similar to his previous films.  It is different in the respect that it is cold, calculating, and horrifying.  It has no ravishing romance as points out.  But, this is not necessarily a bad thing as it is a bizarre and fascinating film with twists and turns.  
      In terms of the story, it is twisted, violent, disturbing, and weird; all in a good way.  The first half was interesting for me as I had no clue where it was going.  With Almodóvar's last film, Broken Embraces, he hooked me in from the start with references to his previous films, bright colors, and a compelling romance.  This one took me a bit to get into, as it was completely different in what did not seem to be a good way.  But the film kept running, until it finally exploded with a twist that turned the film into something powerful and meaningful.  The first part was completely made up for as it, too, took on another dimension.  From then on, the story was compelling and kept me fascinated up until the end.  
The story is propelled further by Alberto Iglesias' ravishing score that pulses with electric guitar chords and mystery.  This score further solidifies him in my eyes as the best living film composer.  He has scored Almodóvar's films for the past 15 years, and will most likely continue this.  I anxiously anticipate his next scores.  I normally do not look forward to film scores to be released, but I cannot wait another day for this one.
      Now for the acting.  Banderas reunited with Almodóvar for the first time in 21 years for this film and is incredible.  He plays Legard with a cold coolness that makes you feel little sympathy for him.  Through Banderas' chilling performance, one can see into the black heart of Dr. Legard and all of his complexities which, if discussed detail, would ruin the movie.  Anaya is captivating as Vera.  She hits all of the right notes in this film.  She is sexy, cold, loving, and vengeful all within scenes of one another.  Anaya was recently in Fred Cavayé's excellent Point Blank and I am excited to see what she does next.
      The production design is also fantastic, as it always is in an Almodóvar film.  In this particular film, the primary colors are cold and dark: blue, black, and grey primarily.  But, that is not to say that Almodóvar's signature red does not show anywhere.  It does in many forms including blood.
Overall, The Skin I Live In is another triumph for the world's greatest living director.  Having followed Almodóvar's films for years, it is exciting to see that with age, he has not lost his incredible talent.  Though The Skin I Live In is not the best work he has done to date, it is still an impressive and thought-provoking look at the layers beneath the visible human skin.
Just a warning: The Skin I Live In is incredibly disturbing with no less than two rape scenes, very strong language, disturbing violence, and themes that will definitely turn some off.  If you can handle this material, go see this.  If not, stay away.  Far away.  

-Joshua Handler

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