Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Blanca Suarez, Alena Anaya, Marisa Paredes.
The Skin I Live In is the latest film from flamboyant Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, and it explores some of his usual themes and preoccupations – obsession, sex, sexual identity, transgender issues, love and desire. It also reunites him with Antonio Banderas, whose career he virtually launched with Labyrinth Of Passion. The pair went on to make five movies together including Law Of Desire and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! before a career in Hollywood beckoned.
In The Skin I Live In, Banderas plays Robert Ledgard, a brilliant plastic surgeon and scientist who is haunted by tragedy. His beautiful young wife was horribly burned in a car accident, although he was unable to save her. He has created a form of artificial burn resistant skin. He also sets out to seek a bizarre revenge on the man he believes raped his teenage daughter (Blanca Suarez). And who is Vera (Elena Anaya, from Talk To Her, etc), the guinea pig who appears to be a virtual prisoner in his house? What role does she play in this drama?
The film unfolds in a series of flashbacks and to reveal too much of the off beat plot would be to spoil its twists and surprises. Based loosely on the novel Tarantula by French author Thierry Jonquet, this is a bizarre take on the Frankenstein tale, although there are obvious homages to other films like Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and Georges Franju’s eerie Eyes Without A Face. Almodovar invests it with his usual visual flourishes and gradually mounting sense of horror and he subverts the usual cliches of the mad scientist genre.
Banderas delivers his best performance for a long time, and he brings a certain intensity to his role as the deranged Ledgard. Almodovar regular Marisa Paredes plays his loyal housekeeper, who has secrets of her own. The film features some striking cinematography from Almodovar regular Jose Luis Alcaine.
The Skin I Live In is a dark, disturbing and bizarre film that will not be to everyone’s tastes, but fans of the director’s idiosyncratic body of work will savour it.