Monday, December 5, 2011

The Skin I Live In

The strong opening hour of "The Skin I Live In" is let down by the second half, which clears things up with unsettling, punch-packing revelations but fails to maintain the extremely precise tone that Pedro Almodóvar set the film up with. The mood of the film is informed greatly by the carefully framed cinematography, the adept art direction, and the brilliant violin-heavy score by Almodóvar regular Alberto Iglesias, which may indeed be the year's finest. The mediocre, repetitive, generally tedious middle section (a flashback that leaves the movie's setting) lets air in on things, but lacks the earlier part's striking control and doesn't fit at all into the grand scheme of the film. It might have been beneficial to the film for Almodóvar to keep tighter reins on the actions, and, furthermore, let only a couple of crazy eruptions result instead of having the film feel almost complete after the conclusion of its first part. This prevents "The Skin I Live In" from getting a truly deep grip on the viewer.

I was certainly affected by Almodóvar's work, however, which has a lot to say about bodies, particularly the command people have over them (the film examines plastic surgery and rape most prominently). He goes a little over the top with this, and the irony in more than a few instances is too much. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the director has some of the problems with sentimentality that made "Broken Embraces" feel sappy. Once he stops being so scrupulous, the film goes in all sorts of directions, only some of which are good for the picture.

I really shouldn't say too much about the plot of the film. It's best to go in absolutely cold. Also because I'm not totally sure I understood the film (even if its supposedly spelled out ultimately), which ultimately didn't make logistical ends meet for me. The biggest reveal is surely disquieting, but, while obviously intended to be pretty bizarre (and raising some strange questions), it ends up feeling very ludicrous. The acting isn't quite as solid as it should've been, and even though Robert Alamo as Zeca makes the deepest impression, he's still wildly uneven (as are Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Blanca Suarez, and Jan Cornet for that matter). "The Skin I Live In" is a true original (albeit adapted from a novel by Thierry Jonquet) that would have done better in the long run being more pared down and less brash. But I guess that's what makes it Almódovar. B-

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