Monday, December 19, 2011
The Skin I Live In - Movie Review
There was a good amount of hype about this film going in. The Skin I Live In is a Spanish film by Pedro Almodóvar, who despite having quite the following amongst critics, I have never heard of before. I had to check out his IMDB page to even see if was remotely familiar with any of his work. The only thing I can say is that I've at least heard of some of the films he's directed. I recognize them from their posters, but that's about it.
I have to admit that while I don't have an issue with foreign films, they are usually not something I rush out to see. Also, seeing this movie after the Niner game (and a few beers) might not have been the best idea as it messed with my focus.
As this movie has some nice twists and reveals going for it, I really can't divulge too much of the plot. The basic story is that Antonio Banderas plays a surgeon who been severely affected by the death of his wife some time ago. His wife was an accident and burned to death. He then created a type of synthetic skin that is impenetrable and can also be used to help burn victims heal.
While he claims he's only tested it on mice, he's been secretly experimenting it on a woman, who appears to be a prisoner in his house. However, she seems to be there willingly, or at least not really resisting. The movie starts in what feels like the middle of things, so it's really not clear at first. It then jumps around in time and shows you the history of the characters and their motivation.
I heard someone describe this as an 'art-house Human Centipede' and that's pretty close. I'd say it's ultimately a revenge film, with sci-fi and Frankenstein elements. The movie is actually all over the place thematically, but it's done very well. It's unpredictable, and as I said earlier, has great reveals and twists. I never found myself confused or bored despite that it's a Spanish film and on the long side. That's saying a lot for the storytelling here. Eventually, it does all come together very nicely and I was satisfied with the payoff.
I thought Antonio Banderas was really good here. I don't know why I've had an issue with him in the past. He's not a bad actor, but maybe it was just some of the movies he's been in. The performances were all good from what I can tell. I hate to use the foreign film thing as an excuse, but I have issues gauging performance quality in foreign films. Everyone seemed like there were doing a good job. I didn't get the feeling that anyone was overacting like I have in other foreign films like Outrage or Space Battleship Yamato.
Many critics have said this movie could have only been directed by Pedro Almodóvar and others wouldn't have been able to make all the different elements of this movie work. While, I don't know if that's true, I do agree that he did a great job of making it all work. It probably would have been a disaster in the hands of another director. I'm thinking someone like David Cronenberg could have done a good job with it.
The movie has a very distinctive look about it and is visually interesting. It also features a very attractive cast. The captive woman, played by Elena Anaya, might be one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. She's worked with Almodóvar, as has Banderas, so now I'm curious to check out their previous films.
There is lots of graphic nudity and this is definitely a hard R rating. I also don't think this is really for the squeamish or easily grossed out. It's very weird and creepy in parts, almost to the point where it feels like a horror film. That's what I mean by all over the place. I did enjoy it though. Then again, this is coming from someone that thinks movies like Teeth or The Human Centipede are hilarious, so take that with a grain of salt. It was fun to hear members of the audience squirm. Even I reacted visibly at one point. As I saw this at The Vine, I ordered a burger during the movie. Afterwards, someone in the lobby asked me how I could eat watching a movie like that. The answer? Alcohol!
The Skin I Live In is a good movie, and I know I say this a lot, but it's definitely not for everyone. It's going to be too weird and creepy for the casual viewer, and again, people that don't like subtitled movies will likely have difficulty watching this. However, if you're looking to watch a well-made and unpredictable film, definitely give this one a rent.
I give it three and a half Death Stars.