Shock And Awe – The Skin I Live In

It’s hard to discuss Pedro Almodovar’s newest movie The Skin I Live In without spoiling the twist as it is so integral to the movie and the point which I’m assuming the filmmaker was trying to make. But I will try to be as elusive as possible while sharing my amazement toward this great movie.

I’ve been harsh towards movies that have shocking twists for the sake of a shocking twist like Incendies. So I’ve got to give it up to  a twist so shocking it punched me in the gut and took my wallet. Especially when that twist served the larger purpose of rattling the perspectives of an audience filled with prejudices and preconceptions.

Almodovar has long been one of my favorite filmmakers. With All About My Mother, Talk To Her, Live Flesh, and Volver the Spanish director mixed tragedy with a sense of humor to give you the full range of human emotion. The Skin I Live In takes you somewhere else. It’s in the realm of science fiction, but even more so it seems with this movie Almodovar has taken the reins as Hitchcock’s heir as the master of suspense. Almodovar’s movies have long dwelled in Hitchcock’s favorite frontier of obsession, in The Skin I Live In’s case though we have no idea what the protagonist is obsessing over.

Antonio Banderas plays a surgeon mired by tragedy. His character is one of the great profiles in villainy. Terrible things happen to Banderas. In movies we have grown accustomed to the central character being able to rise above the muck and mire that try to bring him down. But Banderas stays in the slime becoming a mad scientist conducting experiments rooted in revenge. The movie opens with Banderas conducting clandestine surgeries on the skin of a confined woman. As the movie progresses we flashback to learn how we got to these circumstances and the perspective changes as to whose movie this actually is.

It leaves us with an ending that a particular minority group could use as a Cliff’s Note for outsiders in understanding their plight. As maddening as it is to write about this movie without giving away anything, I am certain it is more annoying to read about it. Once you see The Skin I Live In hopefully this review like the first act of this movie will make a lot more sense.

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