Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is one of the few directors out there — like Fellini, Kubrick, and Ozu — whose films you can identify from a single still. He populates his movies with bright colors and a heavy dose of kitsch. And they're always gorgeous. His stories are often deliciously over-the-top melodramas involving sex, desire, revenge, family betrayals, and gender confusion. It's a combination that has made him hugely popular abroad. Almodovar is the most successful non-English language director in the world.
His latest movie, "The Skin I Live In," which opens in selected cities this week, has all the trademarks of an Almodovar film but is all together a darker, chillier work.
Antonio Banderas, who starred in a few of Almodovar's earlier works, plays Ledgard, an obsessive, brilliant plastic surgeon whose wife died after getting horribly burned in a car crash. He works feverishly at creating a new kind of synthetic skin that is resistant to fire yet sensitive to the touch. By turns seductive and sinister, Banderas is better than he's been in quite a while. He's a long way from "Puss in Boots."
His unwilling guinea pig is Vera (Elena Anaya), who spends her days doing yoga in a flesh-colored body suit while being held prisoner in Ledgard's Toledo mansion. Who Vera is and how she became imprisoned is not something I'm going to reveal. The twist is as shocking as any since "The Crying Game," but the realization doesn't hit you with a sudden jolt — there are no junk shots in this flick. Instead, it comes slowly with a shudder.
Almodovar has described this motion picture as a horror film, but without blood and gore. Indeed, the only blood to be seen in the movie is a shot of a drop hitting a glass slide. It's the lack of horror tropes in this flick that makes it all the more unnerving. "The Skin I Live In" is the most perverse movie the director has made. And that's saying something.
Watch the trailer for 'The Skin I Live In':