Combustible Celluloid
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With: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Blanca Suárez, Marisa Paredes, Bárbara Lennie
Written by: Pedro Almodovar, based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet
Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content including sexual assault, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 117
Date: 05/19/2011

The Skin I Live In (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Monstrous Behavior

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar looks to be one of the most famous and successful of non-English directors alive today. Like Fellini before him, he's now able to announce a film using only his last name. Also, like Fellini, he has grown ever more perverse and daring, taking on more bizarre subjects. Yet Almodovar remains a rigorous and expert filmmaker, with a craftsman's control over color, space and tone. He's also one of the world's most sensual filmmakers, revealing a fearless attitude toward sex, and unafraid to show beauty for beauty's sake (such as a shot of Robert working on a Bonsai tree).

Now Antonio Banderas stars in The Skin I Live In, his sixth film with Almodovar, and their first since Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990).

Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) has developed a new super-strong skin that is impervious to burns and diseases, though the scientific community frowns on his methods. At home, he keeps a beautiful woman, Vera (Elena Anaya), locked up in a special room, and she appears to be the result of his experiments. She manages to seduce him, and in a long flashback, we learn the terrible story of Robert's wife, burned in a car crash, as well as his sadistic half-brother, his beloved daughter, and his daughter's pill-popping rapist. How do all these bizarre elements add up, and how will Robert pay for what he's done?

With The Skin I Live In, Almodovar adopts a playfully wicked attitude, similar to the one James Whale used on Bride of Frankenstein. It doesn't matter how weird things get in this movie, Almodovar is clearly relishing peeling back layer after layer of this peculiar onion.

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