Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Skin I Live In

Pedro Almodovar's latest film has already caused quite a stir at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and for lowly mortals such as I the wait to finally see this film has been, quite frankly, agonising. Antonio Banderas stars as the illusive and brilliant, Dr Robert Ledgard as he goes on an insane venture of playing God to create 'the perfect skin' through the methods of transgenesis. Skin which can resist being burnt and fight off disease. His ethically questionable experiments are all carried out on a mysterious woman, he keeps in isolation, named, Vera. Suffice to say as both their pasts slowly unravel all is not what it seems.

When watching the trailer for The Skin I Live In, I got the impression Banderas' character was something akin to Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or a younger, more macabre take on the sick and twisted, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. However as the revelations of his past is exposed to the audience, slowly and surely, he paints a much more tragic and almost sympathetic soul. Which in turn makes him all the more terrifying and genuinely unnerving in the moments where he loses control altogether.

His co-star, Vera played by the gorgeous Elena Anaya is a much more intriguing being and her story is one of the most shocking and, in a way, terrifying journeys you will probably see in a cinema all year - and something so bloody hard to write about without spoiling the sheer wonder and shock value of the entire feature. Lazily I could argue there was faint comparisons with Vera and the children in the utterly mind boggling, Dogtooth released last year, but perhaps with less naivety. Anaya herself like past Almodovar leading ladies just oozed sincere class and true sexuality on screen, perhaps on this occasion for all the wrong reason though. Nevertheless you only needed to look into her eyes to see the amount of sheer passion in the young actress fantastical portrayal.

Supporting turns from the likes of Marisa Peredes as Robert's servant and trusted confidant Marilia, Jan Cornet as Vincent, Blanca Suarez as Robert's daughter Norma just round off the film brilliantly. Special mention must go to the surreal introduction of Roberto Alamo as Marilia's estranged son, Zeca who you first see in this daft leopard costume which set against these minimalistic, sporadically colourful, surroundings is just a visual overload.

Outside of the Hitchcockian suspense the rest of the feature was essentially textbook Almodovar at its best. The film yet again shows why the playfully imaginative director is regarded as one of the greatest film-makers of his generation. He also should be praised for the way he told the story, so intricately woven yet so easily accessible. A genuine triumph in modern film-making.

Final Thoughts
A dark, disturbing, tense, faintly tragic piece of macabre story-telling. Antonio Banderas was excellent in the leading role, switching between this suave, sadistic madman and this ultimately flawed and insecure soul. Though it wouldn't be a Almodovar film without the leading lady taking all the plaudits and Elena Anaya shines beautifully as the bizarre, mysterious, Vera. The Skin I Live is in strong contention to be my favourite film of 2011, and just goes to show how much punishment there is in the search for perfection. Frankenstein meets Bret Easton Ellis? Makes sense in my head.


The Skin I Live In will be shown in select cinemas throughout the UK from Friday August 26th, 2011.

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