Following Broken Embraces (2009) , Pedro Almodovar presents his 18th feature The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito), a melodramatic psycho-sexual thriller.
In this, the director is reunited with his former muse, Antonio Bandaras, (they last worked together on Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, more than 20 years ago) who plays a renowned plastic surgeon in Madrid, specialising in face-transplants surgery. To the public, he is a respectable doctor, on brink of discovering new methods of strengthening skin with animal genetics. However, his exterior is just a face to cover what dark mischief he indulges in his experimental home-operation theatre.
Vera, a beautiful prisoner of his, is kept in a flesh-toned body suit in a basement, fed opium and operated on regularly, to which she seemingly isn’t opposed to. Although flashbacks to Bandaras’s past reveal secrets behind the drama, the plot takes wild twists and quickly spasms out of conventional viewing.
The disturbing mix of surgery with sex, creates a striking yet sensual balance, which clearly carries the director’s signature. With aspects of horror, not dissimilar from the ‘torture-porn’ of Hostel (2005) and Saw (2004) Almodovar questions the meaning of our skin saying that in modern times ‘The face defines us’.
The film has all the ingredients of a perfect thriller; adapted from a fantastic crime novel (Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet), costumes from Paco Delgado (working with Jean Paul Gaultier), Jazz songs from flamenco fusion artist Concha Buika and composer Alberto Iglesias as well as references to Louise Bourgeois, the artist and sculptor known as The Spiderwoman and the founder of confessional art.
The much-awaited release of a project spanning 10 years of planning, will not disappoint Almodovar fans. Sexy, mysterious, strange and often frightening, with this film, Almodovar is at ease in his own skin.
A nominee for the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and widely praised by critics, this film will surely be a contender for many other awards to come.