THE SKIN I LIVE IN Review - Pedro Almodovar's Frankenstein

A humorous, twisted and Gothic infused psychological horror film that both creeps you out and has you laughing along in hysterics at the absurdity of it all.

My review from the Cannes Film Festival re-posted. Shaun Munro also reviewed the film for us this past week and awarded it four and a half stars.

rating: 4.5

Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In which debuted to a rapturous applause at the Lumiere Theatre only a few hours ago is a humorous, twisted and Gothic infused psychological horror film - a movie that owes an awful lot to Georges Franju's 60's French creeper Eyes Without A Face but also perhaps the 80's body horror sensation David Cronenberg. In fact it's definitely, definitely, definitely more Cronenberg than Almodovar or indeed even more Cronenberg than the modern day Cronenberg and I would never have pegged the Spanish great to make a movie quite like this. But I loved it, serious actors playing harrowing scenes deadpan in a silly and comic melodrama, like they aren't quite in on the joke. I was as giddy as Hans Landa learning the English for 'that's a bingo' in Inglourious Basterds as the final credits rolled. Odd reference but that's how I felt. Reuniting with his pre-Penelope Cruz muse Antonio Banderas for the first time since Time Me Up, Time Me Down two decades ago - The Skin That I Live In, as weird as it is, is definitely the most accessible of their collaborations - a kind of strange modern day Frankenstein parable meets Saw revenge tale that both creeps you out and has you laughing along in hysterics at the absurdity of it all. The Cannes press crowd were giggling all the way through... Banderas stars as the demented cosmetic surgeon Robert Ledgard who is struggling to carry on after his cheating wife is left with severe burns following a car accident, leaving her so hideous she commits suicide upon seeing her new face. This pain pushes Ledgard's determination to experiment with 'transgenesis' - a controversial form of genetic engineering on humans which allows synthetic skin to be placed on the new flesh that is more resilient than God ever intended. Not even the bite of a mosquito could penetrate it. Ledgard has so far treated it on mice though we also learn very early on that he has a human guinea pig at his massive mansion/clinic (this guy is RICH, Banderas like he was in You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is dressed up to the nines in expensive fashion and looks like a suave, Spanish Bond at times) in the form of a young woman named Vera who wears an all in one skin outfit. She is played by a captivating and beautiful Elena Anaya who gives the best performance in the film and is required to perform the most acting ranging from; confused, alluring, sexy, dangerous to comedic. If my memory serves I think the part was written for Almodovar's Volver and Broken Embraces star Penelope Cruz which would have been something to see (there's quite a fun in-joke near the end of the movie about this) but Elena is more than up to the task and I can't wait to see more of her work. It's hard to reveal more and tip-toe successfully around the landmines of potential spoilers as this is a movie that is mostly plot driven and has many surprising twists and turns and it takes a little while for you to work out quite what genre you are in and where you think this one is heading. Feeling vulnerable with a story is fine and half the fun with the movie is predicting where it's going to go next. I hadn't seen the trailer before viewing and I think that's the best way to go in. I will say this much - it's fucked up and weird. Imagine Frankenstein, Eyes Without A Face, Cronenberg's Dead Ringers and hell even Vertigo all put into a blender and meshed together by the deft touch of the guy who made Bad Eduction. Perhaps there's even a bit of Fritz Lang in there too? There's also something of a narrative stretch that some of the experiments performed by Banderas in this movie being remotely plausible given the film is set in Toledo 2012 (i.e. so impossible that if you can't get past that, the movie is dead for you) but I guess I covered that with the Frankenstein reference, so note a touch of science fiction here. That's all you are getting.... this movie is too good to spoil. Technically the movie looks fantastic. Cinematography from Jose Luis Alcaine is a little surreal and lush, the score by Alberto Inglasias in it's own way reminded me of Bernard Hermman's Vertigo tune (weirdly the third time a movie has reminded me of this in a week as Melancholia had a Vertigo tune feel and The Artist had a full play of the most famous piece from Hitchcock's film) which is apt and adds to the tension. Antonio Banderas hasn't been this good in a decade, maybe even longer.... The Skin I Live In is released in the U.K. today. Bring the festival experience home this year on Blu-ray Disc €“ keep up to date with all the latest Blu-ray news at the Blu-ray Disc Reporter.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.