Pedro Almodovar’s newest film is a sickeningly, sensational, stunning masterpiece of “weird”; so repulsive and yet so compelling that it has haunted, lingered like a bad dream in my consciousness for days. Almodovar’s imagination is still pumping at the hydraulic level; effulgent, challenging and flirting with medical possibilities.
Antonio Banderas, in his greatest performance to date, is rivetingly handsome and finely chiseled as “Dr. Robert Ledgard”, an avant- garde genius, mastering the untried and unproven potential of experimental plastic surgery; a widower he channels his pain and disappointment, smothers his emotions; in the process becomes the quintessential Pygmalion.
“Vera”, Dr. Robert’s patient is flawlessly beautiful Elena Anaya who adds a depth to the enigma of her injuries; why is she under constant surveillance? She is clothed in a body suit, enhancing her perfection; we watch her practice yoga, study and mimic the work of Louis Bourgeois (a French/American artist who worked in multiple mediums); writing on the walls, almost calligraphically, chronicling the years in seclusion, healing. How can anyone that magnificent exhibit such agony and self -destructiveness? Especially with the lavish care and love Dr. Robert showers with his every skilled, velvet touch.
Marisa Paredes depicts the housekeeper, or warden, “Marilia”, with punitive, unnerving cruelty in her care of “Vera”; her implacable facade cracks only in the presence of Robert; his whim is her command.
“The Skin I live In” embraces the macabre and elevates it to fiendish heights; there is a fifteen minute menacing, horrific sequence with a man disguised as a tiger, his sobriquet “The Tiger”; in Dr. Robert’s palatial home/clinic we constantly see a John Baldessari painting with the faces masked with colorful circles, a terrific touch of irony, considering the theme. Especially effective in this exhilarating, fantastic scenario are the flashbacks, adding meaning, panache and prescience to the problematic present.
“The Skin I Live In” will not attract the masses but those who enter and stay within the confines of this mesmerizing, chilling drama, will absorb and realize the deleterious effects of man imitating God. For years, will you shiver at the memory.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!