Grae's Rating:

4.0

Who says movies with subtitles are boring?

You shouldn't read anything about The Skin I Live In before you go see it.

(Later:) Now that you've seen it, we can talk turkey. Pedro Almodovar's latest film highly rewards anyone interested in peeling back the layers of the cinematic onion he has presented to us. Sexually questionable, emotionally vivid, and precariously hopeful are just a few lingering phrases it left me with after I sat open-mouthed through the screening. Don't let the film's languorous beginning fool you--it only serves as a gentle introduction to what becomes a really insane view into a world you will most likely want nothing to do with.

Almodovar always bestows audiences with a deceptively beautiful canvas on which he paints his disturbing pictures. This is one of my favorite movies of his in a long time because it's so sneaky, not revealing its true twisted nature until you just start to notice the knots forming in your stomach. It lacks the thickly melodramatic vibe that sometimes accompanies his films (e.g. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother) and almost borders on being a horror movie.

On display is a family crazier than yours to make you feel better about hanging out with them on holidays. Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) lives with Marilia (Marisa Paredes) in his estate. His wife committed suicide after being horribly burned in a car accident and their daughter Norma (Blanca Suarez) isn't dealing with it well. But they are not alone: A woman in a skin-colored jumpsuit named Vera (Elena Anaya) appears to be locked in a room of the house, and Robert watches her through closed circuit cameras in her room. We learn that Robert is working on a new kind of genetically engineered "skin" that is impenetrable to outside forces--precisely what would have saved his wife's life. All he needed to complete his tests was a human subject. How he chose that subject is the shocking part.

From the get-go it's easy to see that something funny is going on, but since you have no evidence of Dr. Frankenstein-ism, you are forced to suffer in silence until you can grab onto tangible information. Almodovar almost always involves the theme of family into his films, and is a master of keeping audiences hanging on his every word (or subtitle) because he sticks people in a pressure cooker and lets them be as crazy as they are capable of being. This film's strength comes from how it lulls you into a dream world that you are a little suspicious of, only to get blindsided by the truly dark side of revenge.

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