Almodóvar’s rambunctious filmography can perhaps broadly be categorized into four buckets, viz. flamboyant, complexly structured melodramas; ribald, gleefully madcap comedies; deeply intimate, inward-looking dramas; and dark, brooding and unapologetically twisted psychological thrillers… and, despite the wild genre and tonal variances, his distinctive auteur touch – pastel palettes, bold thematic choices, idiosyncratic characters, dash of opera – is always immediately identifiable. His deliciously creepy, perverse, provocative and oftentimes exhilarating film The Skin I Live In – based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet, and his first collaboration with Antonio Banderas in 21 years (who he’d cast again – as his alter-ego – before the decade ended, in Pain and Glory) – undeniably belonged to the fourth bucket. Though elementally reminiscent of Franju’s Eyes Without A Face and Teshigahara’s The Face of Another, it had a stunning bucketload of outrageous and offputting plot and thematic elements added – mad scientists and their hubris, pathological obsessions, voyeurism, sexual assault, extreme revenge, sordid family secrets, forced gender reassignment; and yet one can’t help but be amazed at how compelling they were in Almodóvar’s while also being so discomfiting and viscerally shocking. The byzantine plot revolved around a brilliant, unhinged plastic surgeon (Banderas), whose wife had suffered horrible burns in a road accident, conducting transgenic experiments in secrecy at a high-tech lab inside his palatial mansion – on a strikingly beautiful lady (Elena Anaya) held captive, who looks eerily like his dead wife – to develop burn-resistant skin; and that was just the beginning of this deviously lurid movie that tantalizingly shed one unexpected layer after. The taut pacing, moody atmosphere, aesthetic production designs, marvelous performances, eccentric character dynamics, and haunting score made it all the more fascinating.
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller