Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Skin I Live In (2011) VIFF Opening Film

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)
The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

Genre: Drama • Thriller
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet
Language: Spanish
Duration: 117 min.
Rating: 8.4  

Ever since his wife was burned in a car crash, Dr. Robert Ledgard, an eminent plastic surgeon, has been interested in creating a new skin with which he could have saved her. After twelve years, he manages to cultivate a skin that is a real shield against every assault. In addition to years of study and experimentation, Robert needed a further three things: no scruples, an accomplice and a human guinea pig...

The Skin I Live In is a film by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, based in part by the novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet.  It premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and was selected as the opening gala film at the 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival.

This is a beautifully crafted picture that successfully combines elements of drama, thriller, horror, and even romance together in an impressive fashion.  It's difficult to talk about this one without spoiling it, but Almodóvar's trademark glossy sheen is very much on display here on top of what could very well be a David Cronenberg inspired body horror story.

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

There is a pristine and clinical look to the film that echoes the main character Dr. Ledgard's (Antonio Banderas) clean operating room.  The cinematography by Jose Luis Alcaine is precise and surgical and the set design is spotless, giving an almost too perfect and staged feel while managing to keep from going over the top.  The soundtrack composed by Alberto Iglesias is also excellent, powerful and moody but not too showy.

Almodóvar also displays his immense talent for storytelling, seamlessly intertwining multiple plotlines in flashback and in the present.  Carefully balancing the mystery, suspense and drama without ever devolving into a cliched soap opera.  Even though there are certain developments that are easily predictable and lessen the shocking impact of their eventual reveal, the fantastic direction still keeps the audience enthralled and guessing how the end will play out.  If any fault could be found in the screenplay, it's that the flashback sequences could have been tightened up some, and presented in a more concise manner; that and a very unrealistic high-speed vehicle incident that was poorly executed and whose outcome was too convenient to believe.

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The acting also deserves praise, even if it is evident that the performances are more the product of Almodóvar's controlled direction than anything else.  Banderas re-united here with Almodóvar for the first time since 1990's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, is perfect as the twisted and subtly menacing but also emotionally scarred and vulnerable doctor, after seeing him here it will be impossible to look at him the same way again.  The beautiful and radiant Elena Anaya (Room In Rome) impresses with some skillful handling of her complex character Vera, in a brave, physically, and mentally demanding role.  Certainly giving Penelope Cruz some stiff competition for Almodóvar's leading lady of choice.

The Skin I Live In is a stunning, complex, and darkly demented work of art from a master storyteller.  One that crosses genres with style and lives up to expectations for what I can easily say is one the best films of the year.  I already can't wait to see it again.

Bonjour Tristesse

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)

The Skin I Live In • La piel que habito (2011)


Dan said...

I was late to the party with this film but so glad I eventually saw it. I haven't seen everything Almodovar has done but this is best in my opinion. I was hooked from start to finish thanks to its pot-boiling sense of mystery. The twist is also brilliant - I didn't see it coming and I thought it worked perfectly with the themes of the film.

Like you I enjoyed how it celebrated its generic influences but managed to create something new and I liked the mishmash of sci-fi, horror, romance alongside its character study. A marvelous film.

Lisa Thatcher said...

I loved this film!  It's got one of the best plot twists I've seen in years on the big screen. Just like you - I can't wait to go and see it again.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Awesome, I'm really glad you loved this it too.  Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

d_4 said...

So, I saw this yesterday. I was pretty excited to see it, and I'd say I greatly underestimated how much I would enjoy it.

This review is about as good as you can get without spoiling it, which is a bit sad because that means you can't be told if you'll like it or not until it's too late. Even so, the story line is original enough, and only a handful of my guesses were accurate, making it a ridiculously exciting watch. What I will say, is that knowing Spanish did help a little, as talking it over with some American friends it seemed they didn't find certain things as clear.
I'm so happy you told me about this movie. I think I'll go as far as to own it eventually. Thanks again!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yes, Almovodar is a master at balancing the melodrama, and getting great performances from his leads.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

You're right, that sentence is a bit screwy.  I copied that paragraph from the press kit.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

It is a great one, but not sure if it's worth a long distance trip to go see.

moviesandsongs365 said...

Sounds interesting! Even
though I am not the biggest fan of Almodóvar, I
definitely want to see The Skin I Live In. I heard it was insprired by Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Jason said...

Great review. I totally agree with it. I loved the way it flirted with melodrama but pulled back. When I left the cinema with a group of people we were all so astonished at what we had seen that we were quiet for a few minutes and then burst into excited chatter praising the performances - Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya are so good. .

Bloggerburns said...

Awesome review! Love your writing style! Keep up the good work!

TimBowen said...

Oh wow...I love Dead Ringers. Fun to see someone else is a fan.

TimBowen said...

This looks really good. I haven't seen too many Spanish movies, I might check it out just to expand my horizons. 

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

I don't know why but I had to spend 2 minutes looking at the line: "Robert needed a further three things: no scruples....." He needed to *not* have scruples... Something odd about the wording there that's bothering me...(%___)

shutterbug said...

I like the premise of the movie. This sounds like a movie I must see! :)

Jack Deth said...

Hi, Bonjour and company:

Excellent review and clip!

This has a definite Cronenberg,  'Dead Ringers' creepy vibe to it. Along with more than a whiff of 'Frankenstein'. As an obsessed doctor creating someone/thing beyond his control.

Definitely on my list of upcoming flicks!

d_4 said...

I didn't think I'd have such a desire to see this one. It  really catches my attention, from what you say though. I'm interested.

Andrew Buckle said...

Great! This is the Closing Night Film at the BIFF (Brisbane International Film Festival). I am thinking about making the trip interstate for it. I may see this. Love Almodovar and been hearing good things about this one. Really excited for it. 

The Reel Foto said...

I need to see this film.

Lmhawkins1950 said...

I loved Almodovar's comic "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1990s) but missed his other films.  Definitely sounds like a "worth the watch" and a different kind of role for  Antonio Banderas. Thanks for posting the review.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

This sounds like high praise indeed. I'm really looking forward to this one which is (hopefully) coming to a theater near me this month!

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