“The Skin I Live In”/“La Piel Que Habito”
The latest from Pedro Almodovar, “The Skin I Live In”/“La Piel Que Habito”, is being sold as his foray into horror; mercifully, there’s a lot more going on here than that would imply. Antonio Banderas, back with Almodovar for the first time since “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”/”Atame!” (which is significantly referenced) does indeed play a mad scientist, but his is a buttoned-up, middle-class insanity, prompted by grief. Marisa Paredes plays his devoted Igor, and the delightful Elena Anaya is his secret experiment, the mysterious prisoner in his luxurious residence, dressed in a flesh-coloured body-suit, constantly under video surveillance, and unhappy to be there. It’s a story which combines the audacity of early-period Almodovar with the emotional sensitivity of his more recent work, and several trademark themes recur – motherhood, sexual abuse, vengeance, obsession, voyeurism – in a film which, unusually for him, relies more on images than dialogue. Nevertheless, he teasingly denies the audience sight of some flashpoint moments – deaths, revelations, confrontations; and the ending seems a tad anti-climactic. On the whole, though, he is to be congratulated for taking a B-movie premise and producing a profound, beautiful and entertainingly disturbing piece of work.