Monday, 22 August 2011

The Skin I Live In

It wouldn't be right for me to go into too much detail about what Pedro Almodóvar's new film The Skin I Live In is all about, although I can tell you what it's not about. It's not about the flawless employment of the English language, what with its preposition-misplacing title, and it's definitely not an adaptation of this children's book about racial tolerance:
I suppose you could say that it's about love, obsession, betrayal, madness and vengeance, and if any of that makes you think of Vertigo then you're a step closer to understanding where Almodóvar's coming from, which is to say, a place of considerable weirdness.

The Skin I Live In doesn't approach the complexity or emotional depth of Hitchcock's masterpiece, but it does present a morbidly fascinating account of the lengths to which one man will go to assuage his inner demons. It helps that the film's lead actors - eternally watchable, infuriatingly handsome Antonio Banderas and impossibly beautiful, vowel-hogging actress Elena Anaya - are both really, really ridiculously good-looking but equally capable of suggesting inner torment that only occasionally rises to the surface.
Credit must also go to Almodóvar's regular cinematographer José Luis Alcaine, whose clean, clinical photography would no doubt be approved of by Banderas' meticulous plastic surgeon, and to the make up team, who give Anaya an unsettlingly flawless look that suggests something's not quite as it should be.

The film's problems come from the underwritten characters: they're all bursting with the potential of the kind of depth that made Vertigo what it is, but we never really get to the heart of their motivation. Why Banderas' character goes to quite such extreme lengths is explained but not fully explored, and the secrets harboured by the rest of the players never satisfyingly explain their actions.
That said, Almodóvar is still one of the world's most interesting auteurs, and you'll be lucky to find many directors making whatever the hell they feel like and still producing watchable, quality stuff like this.

Apologies for going all serious there and using words like "assuage" and "auteur"; here's a little game of Where's Pedro? to redress the balance:

6 comments :

  1. While at a post runway bubbly bash during my video days covering the Haute Couture shows in Paris I had the disturbing experience of coming face to facade with Jocelyn Wildenstein. It was most disturbing. Why on earth did this woman, wearing jewellery that could be exchanged for my whole street, allow such an horrendous fright of a mask be put in place of what was once her face. I'm not sure where the skin grafts are taken from, but she probably does talk out of the back of her arse.

    By the way, under age drinkers are sometimes worried that a barman is going to "Ass u age."

    At a high spotty (house party where coal comes in sex and pepper is used for writing letters), an annoying mother in law is an auter as in "You auter do this or that."

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  2. I regret my repetition of 'disturbing' and spelling auteur as I shouldn't aughter in my comment above. I often wish I still had my original English teacher whispering comments and corrections in my ears.

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