Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In
This is the creepiest Almodovar film yet, and that's saying something for the great Spanish director.
La Piel Que Habito is an uneasy blend of suspense/thriller and melodrama. To describe the plot is to rob the film of part of its considerable power. That said, the movie follows a crazed plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas in the performance of his career) and his experiments on a woman he keeps captive at his home. From the start, an overwhelming sense of mystery intrigues each scene. Slowly, bit by bit, Almodovar lays down plot pieces of a complex puzzle which coils into a frenzy of sex, violence, gore and murder.
The film falters and lags, however, in its middle section, especially after Almodovar deploys the device of the expository conversation to reveal crucial plot points. Also, the film sometimes lacks the flair we expect from Almodovar. It's as though the weirdness overwhelms key plot sequences which, in an Almodovar film, normally flow with a kind of effortless ease.
However, all of the tension is in the service of a powerful ending that is astonishing in its contradiction: simple yet complex. Complex because of its questions about identity. This is an audacious film that builds itself on a central premise revolving around the nature of the body and what it really means to inhabit it. Queasy, astonishing and philosophical. One of the year's best films.
STARS: ****/ four