Friday, March 9, 2012

'Skin' Inhabits the Mind

Pedro Almodovar is what the French termed as an auteur of a film, an artist who's creative vision bleeds with vibrant color through the sometimes obscure and avantegarde world his mind's projection onto film often takes us to. In his latest film, Almodovar stamps his red--with sexual connotation--seal of approval on The Skin I Live In.

Known for his Spanish, sexually charged films, like Bad Education and Broken Embraces, Almodovar's latest takes an old-tale and offers us an original re-telling. It's a modern-day tale of lust, revenge and family drama (Spanish novelas).

A bereaved plastic surgeon, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), is determined to seek retribution after the death of a family member. Elena Anaya (Almodovar's 2002 Talk to Her) plays Vera, a house-imprisoned patient of Dr. Ledgard whose skin he recreates using illegal pig stem cells. And that's about all I'll say. There's a reason why the trailers to this film are ambiguous and non-divulging. I don't want to ruin anything, but also can't even begin to explain it.

The narrative's time frame is fractured. The syuzhet juggles between present-day and analepsis with some foreshadowing. These moments back in time add both insight and clarity, but the true accomplishment is Almodovar's artistic story-telling with deeply-layered characters. His story of a widowed husband seeking solace after his grief is inventive. Think Return to Me meets Nip/Tuck and you get the idea.

Almodovar collaborated with producer/brother Agustin Almodovar who holds writing credits for their screenplay, based on the novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet. He also reteams with Jose Luis Alcaine, who has been director of photography for several of Almodovar's films. Alcaine's cinematography is vibrant; the bold colors pulsate with passion that adequately accompanies the film's tone and theme. Also reteaming with Almodovar is one of my favorite new composers Alberto Iglesias, recently nominated for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, whose poetic score filled with somber piano notes pull at our heart strings and then is jolted into excitement with a powerful violin track that add moments of intrigue and instills a sense of desire.

For a director who seems to try to set the bar for cinematic achievement with every endeavor, someone should tell him he's in a level competing on his own. There is no bar for Almodovar, I think that straight/conservative bar ran away after watching one of his films, there's only enjoyment from his audience in watching him compete with himself.

Skin goes beyond the temporal plane of societal perception of that word. It inhabits your mind, lingers there for some time, until your thoughts of the film permeate through your pores and you begin to feel the after-affects of what Almodovar has done to you mentally.

Rating: A

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