October 16, 2011

La piel que habito (Spain 2011)

It often happens in the careers of great directors that once they have received awards and reached their peaks, they arrive at a point where they struggle to get back to that level. Often these later works feel forced despite technical mastery. Judging from his last two films, Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar seems to have reached that point and lost some of the spirit that made him a household name on the art film circuit.

Even if his latest film "La piel que habito" still bears his signature style as well as familiar topics and situations. But as with "Los abrazos rotos", he fails to make the film emotionally engaging. The story of a plastic surgeon that starts experimenting with skin grafting after the death of his wife is well constructed but the characters remain shallow. The film also shifts too much between serious drama, thriller and horror. Almodóvar's fondness for the eccentric - some would say the perverse - is once again on display. His hardcore fans might like it, other viewers will find it distasteful. But then, this seeming contraction between beautiful images and disturbing content has always been a trademark of Almodóvar's cinema and a large part of its fascination.

"La piel que habito" is - despite the nods to Georges Franju - a unique work from a unique director but it has the same problem that fake skin has: it might look nice but it is just not the real thing.


Eyes without a face: "The Skin I live in"

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