The Skin I Live In Reviews
Pedro Almodovar has always made weird films that challenge traditional conceptions of sexuality and gender with multiple, intersecting characters, but what has been his weakness in my view was the degree to which the stories interconnect to form a fluid narrative or consistent theme. The Skin I Live In is his best film because it has a fantastic, fluid narrative that unfolds deftly. It's full of surprises and the twists come logically and unexpectedly. Disturbing to the core, Almodovar once again seeks to problematize traditional points of view. What's more, I loved his use of "show" details -- actions that characters perform that tell us about their inner life -- and when Robert's daughter climbs in the closet, I couldn't think of a better way to show her devastation.
Antonio Banderas is at his best, evil -- staring over his eyebrows -- when he needs to be and even charming at times, and one of my favorite Spanish actresses, Elena Anaya, gives an astounding performance.
Overall, if you only see one Almodovar film, make it this one -- just don't bring your sensibilities or the children.
This is a filmmaker that had destitute nuns, sex addicts, mothers trading their sons to pay dental bills, someone who changes sex to have a sexual relationship with her father, among many others. So "La Piel que Habito (The Skin I Live In)" should be no surprise to anyone who's witnessed Almodóvar's amazing career.
What's different about "The Skin I Live In" is that while his prior films always had at least an ounce of humor (some more slapstick "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", some more subtle and satiric "Volver" and "All About My Mother"), "Skin is pure physiological horror. It's Almodóvar by way of Hitchcock or Argento. And it's a testament to his maturity as a filmmaker that he makes it work.
"Skin" is about a grieving plastic surgeon who after 12 years has managed to cultivate a skin that is a shield against any element. The film centers around his relationship with his human guinea pig and how this relationship is affected by the personal losses he's experienced in his life (his wife and daughter). How this psychologically plays out goes into icky territory but it wonderfully twisted and bizarre. You will be rapt by this mental exploration, not only of the God complex doctor but of his guinea pig patient and his motherly accomplice.
"Skin" reunites Almodóvar with one of his original, and probably only, male muse Antonio Banderas - and it does wonders for Banderas. He hasn't been this good in a live action film since the 1990s. Almodóvar understands Banderas gifts and allows his to use his penetrating eyes with menace. To pull off such a bizarre story Almodóvar knows he needs a strong cast to make it convincing so he relies on his frequent collaborator Marisa Paredes and the alluring Elena Anaya ("Talk to Her") to help round out this insane trio.
But the film belongs to Almodóvar. Despite the darkness of the story he still brings his unique storytelling style to the forefront. His wonderful ear for fluid dialogue and impeccable eye for perfectly framing a scene manages to add to tense, claustrophobic feel of "The Skin I Live In".
Despite the film taking some time to find its rhythm, the moment it settles in and grabs you, it doesn't let go. "The Skin I Live In" may not be one of his classics, but it's a great addition to the imaginative world Pedro Almodóvar has created over the last 30 years.
Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a plastic surgeon who has perfected a new form of artificial skin. The problem with Ledgard though, is that he's not entirely healthy of mind and as a test subject, he holds Vera (Elena Anaya) captive in his home to conduct his experiments. However, the arrival of a wanted criminal makes an appearance at his home which brings forth the dark history of the doctor and patient and how they came to be in their current situation.
Something that I have always tried to avoid when writing down my thoughts on a film is treading into spoiler territory. This is certainly one of those films that's difficult to write about without giving away major parts of the plot. Suffice to say, Almodovar himself described the film as "a horror story without screams or frights" that was loosely based on the novel "Tarantula" by French writer Thierry Jonquet and inspired by Georges Franju's 1960 film "Eyes Without a Face". It also has an odd David Lynch feel to it, or more to the point, Lynch's daughter Jennifer and her 1993 movie "Boxing Helena" (much more accomplished than that of course) In different hands this film could have fell into torture porn territory and ended up hitting the straight to DVD slasher shelf but with Almodovar at the helm, it takes on a whole new shape and form. His ability to construct an elaborate narrative cannot be questioned and he commands an audiences attention, while teasingly, revealing the layers to his story. Quite simply, he's an artist! That statement alone should be enough to simplify this highly creative director's impressive catalogue. Scenes are shot with such an eye for detailed beauty that you'd be forgiven for being reminded of classical pieces of art as he frames his picture like an expressionist painter. The production design is superb and visually, the film is simply beautiful. The beautiful look isn't reflected in the material though. This is dark stuff and despite being, both shocking and bizarre, it possesses a sense of humour - all be it, a sick one. Almodovar's recurrent themes and probing of the human psyche are also explored; masochism, transgender issues and repressed sexuality but ultimately this is a modern, twisted take on the Frankenstein story and one that he imbues with style and creative flair. But nothing is black and white here, he even toys with the morality of the audience in clever use of the Stockholm syndrome in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to their captor. As always with Almodovar though, there are a major plot developments that throw his films off-kilter and take such dramatic turns that they quite near takes your breath away. To reveal any more would be completely irresponsible and wholly unfair of me but rest assured that this is thought provoking filmmaking and a craftsman plying his trade at a very high standard. He's also aided by superb performances by his leads; Elena Anaya could well be the next Penelope Cruz and it's great to see Banderas deliver such an intense and brooding character, making you wonder why he and the Spanish auteur have waited 21 years before collaborating again here.
A provocative and macabre near masterpiece from Almodovar. It's one worthy of attention and arguably his finest film to date.
Dramatically The Skin I Live In fails to answer key questions. It remains at heart a superficial trip within the mind of a sicko. Given that premise, the motivations and the reactions of the characters should make sense. This isn't the case. Robert's desires are hard to believe. His lack of scruples are further disquieting. How did he develop this personality? There's precious little insight into his abhorrent behavior. The script really doesn't have anything to truly explain about this psychopath, other than to offer there are some really messed up people in the world.
This is by far one of the top movies of 2011, and surely the best of Almodovar's work. I was never a big fan of Almodovar but in this movie he just does the unthinkable, he makes on of the most twisted and disturbing films (in a good way) where the magic of storytelling is key.
Dr.Robert is a famous and rich plastic surgeon who after a tragic death of his wife due to a car accident, he develops a new skin that is resistible to any burns or scratches, however as the story unveils the audience see's what really lies under the skin and the secrets hidden inside.
I can honestly not find words to describe how fantastic the story of this movie is. The movie gets you and grip every second, but the twist close to the end of the movie is mouth dropping -certainly one of the best twists in movies. In Almodovar's unique style he incorporates a unique story.
Antonio Banderas is also kickass in this film, he does an outstanding job. Then there is Elena Anaya and Jan Cornet who play wonderful parts.
Overall a top movie, certainly one that can't be missed. This movie is for sure one of the best of 2011, and I highly recommend it!
Norma: "Clothes make me feel claustrophobic. I wish I could stay naked all the time."
The film had me questioning identity and attraction, and it ultimately comes down to a short clip Vera sees on TV, with the yoga teacher explaining what yoga does in firmly maintaining the inner person, while all else around them may be destroyed.
Grand melodrama, obsession and use of colour; all Almodovar staples, shine through brightly, and the pulsating score demands to be heard.
It's hard to talk about the film without revealing the stunning surprises, several of which will make your skin crawl. But I can say that Antonio Banderas (who catapulted to international fame after his performance in Almodovar's 1987 film, "Law of Desire"), in an unusually downbeat performance for him, plays a plastic surgeon with issues. As the film opens, we see him in his palatial home, where he and his mother are keeping a young woman imprisoned.
He is giving her skin grafts, a little at a time. Initially it appears that he's treating a burn victim. But then why would she be imprisoned?
Almodovar wrote the screenplay based on a 1995 novella, "Tarantula," by the now-deceased French writer Thierry Jonquet. Gradually, Almodovar reveals more and more details (with the slow, deliberate pace of a tarantula). When everything finally comes out, it will shake you up.
The flaws in the film are significant, unfortunately. The first half is so boring at times that I had to fight the urge to leave the theater. Also, ultimately I'm not sure the film has much to say. It's a profile in obsession with a 21st-century spin. (Hitchcock for the 21st century, one could say.) But are psycho-sexual obsessions really that interesting? Are they subjects worthy of great art?
"The Skin I Live In" reminded me to a degree of Almodovar's extraordinary 2002 film, "Talk to Her." That film was also about obsession. But there Almodovar pierced deeply into his protagonist's psyche. Here we only observe the plastic surgeon from afar. We really never get into his head, or his mother's. This quality of superficiality, coupled with the ultra-sluggish pace of the first half, limits the film's power and most likely will cause it to be considered one of Almodovar's minor films. Valuable but minor.
It's disappointing, because this subject matter is uniquely creepy and interesting and should have gotten a deeper treatment.