By William Wolf


In other hands this might simply be a horror film. As directed and co-written by Pedro Almodóvar, “The Skin I Live In” doesn’t attempt to scare you but is simply bizarre and sometimes distasteful although always riveting looking. As his fans have long been aware, this is a director who knows how to make a visually creative film that commands attention. But this venture is more over-the-top than satisfying. It comes across as eerily nutty and tries one’s patience even as one ogles the effects, the costuming, makeup and the medical hocus-pocus. The co-writer is Agustin Almodóvar, with the screenplay based on the book “Mygale” by Thierry Jonquet.

Call this a new category skin flick, one that leaves its characters rather than audiences in stitches, although definitely not the laughing kind. Antonio Banderas plays Dr. Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon still grieving for his wife who was burned in a car crash. Like an obsessed, perhaps crazed scientist, he is working on the creation of new skin. Think back to the old Frankenstein classic, only this one is Almodóvar glitzy instead of 1930s shadowy. Of course, the doc needs someone on whom to experiment. Enter a kidnap victim who doesn’t know the change he is in for, but the film is much more complicated than that.

The location for the tale is Toledo, Spain, mostly in a mansion called El Cigarral, where Ledgard works secretly. Marilia, played by Marisa Paredes, has looked after the doctor since he was born, and she is involved in scenes that add to the over-all oddness of this excursion into the outlandish. Other key cast members include the intriguing looking Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo, Eduard Fernández and Blanca Suárez. Detailing the plot would be a spoiler, as there is mystery afoot for you to contemplate as the saga unravels in the present and with flashbacks.

But it is not worth too much contemplation. Skill-wise, the director is in good form. Content-wise, rank this one fairly low on the list of Almodóvar’s filmography. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


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