Antonio Banderas re-teams with Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (their first collaboration since 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) for an off-the-wall surgical fable of horrific proportions. Opium-addicted plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Banderas) has created an artificial skin that is immune to both burns and mosquito bites. He hopes to “improve the human species”, but secretly has personal motives behind his scientific advancements. The beautiful Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya) serves at the mad surgeon’s guinea pig who is forced to live a prison-like existence in a constantly surveilled room adjacent to his bedroom. The mysteries surrounding Ledgard’s past and Vera’s present are eventually revealed thanks to his maid (frequent Almodóvar player Marisa Paredes), her criminally-inclined son, and a series of flashbacks that are both heartbreaking and disturbing. Y’know how films like The Sixth Sense and The Crying Game have become iconic thanks to their unexpected twists? Well, add The Skin I Live In to that exclusive club.
Loosely based on Thierry Jonquet’s 1995 novel Mygale, Almodovar explores familiar territory of gender roles and laws of attraction while flaunting his still-pleasing talents for composition and color. The film has that pop flair that his fans expect, but there’s a darker, genre-oriented sheen to it all and a darkly humorous matter-of-factness to the strange proceedings. Sure, the narrative runs a little long post-reveal, but distance from the somewhat predictable, but shocking nonetheless twist is necessary for the greater themes to breathe.
The Skin I Live In opens today at the Ritz Five.