La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In)
The official imdb blurb on Pedro Almodóvar rightly suggests he is the most internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker since Luis Bunuel. He is one of few Spaniards who have successfully managed to woo Hollywood without fawning to their demands. Responsible for a host of movies that you probably never saw, or did see but never realised he was the man behind it, you could be forgiven for not really knowing too much about him. He's not much of a self-publicist, after all. He tends to let his films to do his talking for him.
With Volver, All About My Mother and Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown all in his back pocket, it's easy for anyone with eyes to see that the man has an enviable talent, not to mention a certain way with the ladies. He could even boast a long term platonic friendship with Penelope Cruz as well as her being his muse.
Here, he delivers us what could probably be described as his most provocative work to date. The Skin I Live In is a tense, taut uncomfortable story, littered with flair for the single shot and overflowing the senses with terrifying lucidity.
Our lead, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a celebrated, yet troubled, plastic surgeon, living in a beautiful home, yet aching for a lost love. When we first meet him, he has been a widower for some years, his wife having died shortly after a near fatal car accident. Father to a teenage daughter that is as estranged as its possible to be following the trauma of both her mothers death and an unfortunate sexual encounter at a party, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine that he has his fair share of problems already.
Imprisoned in one of the rooms of his house is an initially mysterious young woman, Vera (Elena Anaya) a 'project' that the good Doctor has been working on for some time. And it is the story of this woman's existence that Almodóvar chooses to focus his story upon. And what a story it is. To tell you anything about her would ruin the film for you, so I will not spoil what is a delicate and delicious tale.
As an individual who watches altogether too many films for his own good, I have to appreciate those occasions where a Director treats each frame as its own particular work of art. Too many films are nine-tenths filler, but every minute here is accounted for and not a moment is wasted. The film is truly uncomfortable at times and the performances of Banderas and especially Anaya are something to behold.
An all round edge of the seat conundrum of a film with enough twists to keep Chubby Checker occupied for a couple of hours. Great stuff indeed from Almodóvar. For those of you with shoddy eyesight and less than impressive command of Spanish, remember your glasses, as you'll have a bugger of a time keeping up with the plot if you can't read the subtitles.