Monday, January 30, 2012

The Skin I Live In

Pedro Almodóvar's latest must-see is one of the best films of 2011.

The last ten years have seen Spain reaffirming itself as the most productive breeding ground for top quality cinema.

Álex de la Iglesia (La Habitacion del Niño), Guillem Morales (Los Ojos de Julia), Jaume Balagueró (REC, Fragile), Rodrigo Cortés (Buried) and Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) are only a handful of directors typifying Spain's current cinematic run of form.

And that's without counting, of course, one of country's most celebrated film-makers, Pedro Almodóvar (of Volver fame), whose latest film The Skin I Live In (original title La Piel Que Habito) is one of his most remarkable ever.

Put bluntly, Almodóvar's films are generally weird. But I mean good and watchable weird. Never pretentious or self-indulgent, let alone overly arty and elitist, which is this blog's pet hate. You can watch almost every Almodóvar film and expect the seediness and the various quirks along the way to finally make sense at some point.

By the time you've spotted the twist coming or have clocked it altogether, the story will have drawn you in so much that you'll simply want to find out how or why right until the very end.

Given how rich and carefully textured the plot is, there's not much we can reveal about The Skin I Live In. Even the slightest clue may easily turn into the most irritating of spoilers.

The film is in one go horror, psychological thriller, crime, film noir, and distorted love melodrama as well. All the while, underlying ethical questions are posed over the extent to which Frankenstein-like medicine can go.

But, while most directors would have lost the plot trying to juggle too many genres at the same time, Almodóvar pulls it off handsomely.

His rich colours and obsessive themes are not, unlike many other directors, cheap gimmicks, fillers or clever tricks. They are integral part of his narrative.

The film is also the moment when Antonio Banderas, one of Spain's most famous actors, reaffirms his acting credentials. Often slammed as wooden, here he's absolutely superb, oozing mystery and charisma and carrying the whole weight of the film from start to finish.

Watch The Skin I Live In and you'll lose yourself into its slow but intense pace and into its intriguing and relentless buildup, while the different ends of the same web gradually come together against a backdrop that is both creepy and fascinating at the same time.

1 comment:

D.C. Harrison said...

I hope it's not a spoiler to say that after watching this, my main thought was, the best possible way: "That was fucked up".