The Skin I Live In Directed by: Pedro Almodovar Cast: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins Rating: R Release Date: October 21, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: A scientist (Banderas) uses the body of another woman (Anaya) to try to recreate the entire body of his dead wife.
WHO'S IT FOR? Anyone who has seen an Almodovar movie will have an idea of what to expect from tone, including the movie's "telenovela" tendencies. Fans of psychological dramas might be sucked into this movie, so long as they are patient with its step-by-step storytelling. However, there's no guarantee for anyone as to how the ending will settle with you.
EXPECTATIONS: Outside of Banderas and Almodovar, I knew little about this movie. Those two names were all I needed to dive curiously into the director's followup to the quite good Broken Embraces.
Antonio Banderas as Robert Ledgard: Simply put, Ledgard is a weird guy. And with such complications, Banderas is able to cover all of their strange corners of his personality. At times, we are intrigued by him. In others, we are absolutely repulsed. Ledgard goes between sympathetic and disgusting easily, and Banderas is able to make an impression with both of these character sides. Banderas is so convincingly cold here. Score: 7
Elena Anaya as Vera Cruz: The mystery at the center of The Skin I Live In, Vera is an peculiar woman with unpredictable actions and feelings. As Almodovar aims for, she is also quite beautiful. Anaya is quite strong in this demanding performance that is at the center of the mind games of this film. Score: 7
Jan Cornet as Vicente: With the horrible act that he commits to Robert's daughter, Vicente is less than a weasel. Vicente's character is not an entirely important human being to the story so much as he's a tool in the movie's grand scheme. We only start to sympathize with Vicente when his "punishment" starts to register to us as awkwardly more cruel than the man's awful act. He's a difficult character, but a simple one in his usage. Score: 6
TALKING: Some strands of dialogue are too heavy with Almodovar's melodramatic sense, meaning that an ordinary line is pushed to be a little cheesier than it should be (especially when they are accompanied by a thunder cue, as like what happens on one occasion). Outside of a few odd moments in tone, the dramatic dialogue is clean, and with a lot of curious hints carefully dished out that make us want to see where all of this is going to end. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Although a lot of medical equipment is seen when Ledgard is working, we hardly understand the technology. Thankfully, the mechanics of Ledgard's odd operations are not so important, so much as their artful value. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The score for The Skin I Live In variates between muted-trumpet jazz to thumping techno in its more "intense" scenes. There's even a cover of an Elliot Smith song thrown in randomly to the mix, to keep the sounds of the film disorienting - much like the entire experience of the movie itself. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The first act of the movie is pretty strong, as it works with romantic voyeurism and strange scenarios. It sets up all of the questions that will be answered patiently in the next two acts of the film.
ENDING: "I'm Vicente."
REWATCHABILITY: I'm curious to see how the pacing of the movie feels a second time, knowing now how the pieces come together.
The Skin I Live In is a mind-bending movie that nearly snaps due to some awkward melodrama and an over-complicated story. There are definitely moments in which the rather simple story of Skin feels like it could cut some of its fat. Flashbacks in particular feel like strong weight against the pacing of the film; or like they are tangents. Thankfully for Almodovar's desire to tie everything back together, the mystery of The Skin I Live In is able to leave a near knock-out effect on its audience in the conclusion, as long as he hasn't lost grip of them with his dragging running time.
For those who dive into The Skin I Live In, the payoff is certainly worth it. This is another story from Almodovar that is as intriguing as it is strange; another tale that has us rethinking the science of sexuality. It gets under your skin, and into your mind as well.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10