October 21, 2011

MOVIES: The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar, 2011)

Almodovar revisits many of his familiar themes -- beautiful women in jeopardy, complicated parent/child relationships, twisted sexuality, overheated melodrama -- in The Skin I Live In, his take on the mad-scientist movie. Antonio Banderas stars as Robert, a plastic surgeon who works from his remote estate outside Toledo. His clients like the privacy, and there are suggestions that Robert has occasionally taken advantage of the isolation to perform surgeries where the paperwork is, shall we say, not entirely in order.

As the movie opens, there is only one patient in residence. Vera (Elena Anaya) is a lovely woman who does a lot of yoga and usually wears nothing but a skintight body stocking. She is, for unknown reasons, locked in her room, and tended to by Robert and his maid, Marilia (Marisa Paredes).

Suddenly, we get a "six years earlier" caption, and we're introduced to Vicente (Jan Cornet), a young window dresser who is flirting with a pretty co-worker just a bit too persistently. The rest of the movie is spent filling in that six-year gap and explaining how Vicente's story ties in with that of Robert and Vera.

The mad scientist element brings some freshness to the story, and as ever with Almodovar, the plot twists are gloriously loopy. This doesn't rank with the very best Almodovar (I'd put Volver and Bad Education at the top of the list), but it's a lot of fun.

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