I’ve taken many unusual cinematic journeys with Pedro Almodóvar and enjoyed most of them, but I just didn’t care for The Skin I Live In. The filmmaker’s best work has always felt organic, even at its most outrageous; this one is burdened by an inescapable air of contrivance. One scene, in which an older female character unburdens herself and reveals a startling amount of expository information, actually plays like a—
—parody of an Almodóvar movie.
The Skin I Live In is a formalistic piece of work, uncharacteristic of the writer-director. (His last picture, Broken Embraces, was meticulous in its puzzle-like structure, but it worked much better.) It’s also ice-cold, another anomaly for this warm-blooded filmmaker.
The story is a twisted take on Frankenstein with a kinky sex angle. Antonio Banderas plays a plastic surgeon who has been trying to develop artificial skin, since his wife nearly burned to death in a fiery car accident. He has no conscience or ethical scruples and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring his experiments to fruition. Then fate takes a hand when, in a misguided attempt at revenge for a wrongful act, he finds a human guinea pig.
That’s all you should know going in.
The actors, led by Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, do their best in challenging but highly restrictive roles.
Nothing Almodóvar does could be without interest, and this is no exception: his production design and attention to detail are formidable, and he is in perfect harmony with his actors. But the movie left me with an unpleasant aftertaste. In a funny way it’s more interesting to read about than it is to watch.