Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

14 December 2011

The Skin I Live In

Almodóvar is awesome. I am literally in awe of the audacity of his films.

I saw The Skin I Live In about a week ago and I cannot gets insanity out of my head.

I wasn't really crazy about Almodóvar's last picture, Broken Embraces. I have felt, recently, as though the Almodóvar style has been getting in the way of the content. Broken Embraces, Volver, and Bad Education have all felt to me like very personal, almost self-critical projects. I liked Volver and liked the other two less, but who knows? I mean, the truth is, the pictures are astounding no matter how you slice it. There are so many good movies that even when the latest one is not my particular cup of tea, I am still in awe of the master.

And, actually, I have been watching some older Almodóvar films just to catch up on the oeuvre before The Skin I Live In came to my neighborhood. (Law of Desire is particularly outrageous and fun, if you haven't seen it.)

This is too much of a preface. Sorry. The Skin I Live In is absolutely fucking outrageous. It is sensational and totally insane. It is brilliantly colored (like his pictures always are), and it boasts astounding performances by Pedro's old muses Antonio Banderas and Marisa Paredes. And there are some great actors who are new to Almodóvar, too: Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Susi Sánchez (from The Milk of Sorrow) and particularly Roberto Álamo.

I can't really say too much about this movie without spoiling its absolutely batshit-crazy plot points, so I will not bother. Suffice it to say that there is a plastic surgeon who has invented a new kind of skin by using transgenesis and combining human genes with the genes of a particular kind of animal. And he is keeping a woman prisoner in his house on whom he operates regularly, grafting this new skin onto her. But those are just the given circumstances, really. The plot goes off the rails, back in time and then way back in time. But Pedro Almodóvar, as he always does, manages every bit of this deftly, creating an extreme amount of tension and, as always, avoiding the predictable. Even if and when you figure out what is going to happen or think you know what is going on, watching these characters unravel their predicaments is fascinating.

Like Law of Desire, The Skin I Live In is interested in why we love who we love and how we deal with loving people who are morally reprehensible and how and if we are allowed to escape those desires. I absolutely loved this picture. It was creepy and weird and beautifully shot, and also has a way of constructing moral quandaries that I can't seem to shake. I moved it to #2 for the year.