The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almódovar, 2011)

What's it about? Robert (Antonio Banderas) is a brilliant plastic surgeon who has created an artificial skin which is resistant to burns and insect bites. Rather unethically, however, the human guinea-pig for his experimental research is a beautiful, submissive young woman (Elena Anaya) who he keeps captive at his luxurious villa. What exactly is the story behind this relationship? The scene is set for some surprising revelations.

Is it any good? Another exotic and delightfully mad shaggy dog story from Almódovar, exploring his favoured themes of identity and sexuality. Essentially, it's a modern spin on the Frankenstein tale, but as Almódovar himself insists, this is "a horror story without screams or frights". Instead, like the patchwork skin created by Robert, Almódovar has stitched together several genres seamlessly, combining elements of horror, medical thriller, romance, sci-fi and noir with confidence, and it is a testament to his skill that he does all this successfully without letting the inherent ridiculousness of the story overwhelm it. As with all Almódovar films, it is gorgeous to look at with a striking use of colour, from the emphasis on vibrant red hues to the bold artwork adorning the elegant villa where the majority of the action is set. Even the skin tones of the tanned Banderas and the alabaster-white Anaya make an arresting contrast. Indeed, Banderas is so handsomely charismatic in the lead, it is easy to forget that he is actually the barking mad scientist in all of this. Despite all this, what the film lacks is an emotional centre as it skates over some of the character relationships and motivations rather quickly and leaves it too late for the viewer to really connect with any of the characters in earnest. As a result, we are left with a entertaining, darkly playful experiment in storytelling, but one that never really gets under the skin.

Anything else I should know? In a lengthy interview here, Almódovar reveals his inspiration for the film and discusses some of the recurring themes in his films. If you liked this, it also worth checking out some of Almódovar's back catalogue which I've reviewed here and here.

What does the Fonz think? Yeah! Slip me some skin, bro Pedro!

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