Review: The Skin I Live In


Director: Pedro Almodóvar (Tie Me Up Tie Me Down, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Volver, Broken Emraces)
Producers: Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 117 min.

Pedro Almodóvar clearly has issues. These issues have been evident for many many years and have shown their fantastic colors in film after film in a career spanning almost 40 years. But as far as I know, from the films of his I’ve seen, these issues have never been as dark and twisted as the ones depicted in La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In). And quite honestly, never has one of his films captivated me so intensely.

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Director’s Club Podcast [Pedro Almodóvar]

Over at the Drectors Club Podcast this weekend I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with Jim and Patrick as we dove into the still underrated works of Pedro Almodóvar.

While we focused mainly on his Oscar winning production of All About My Mother and the arguable fan favorite, Talk to Her, we took enough time to dig a little deeper into the filmography and talk about Pedro’s career as a whole – which as we found out is much easier.

So if you haven’t got your fix for podcasts this week, definitely stop over there for some Almodóvar chat as well as some other recent watches and answering listener emails. Thanks guy, it was a lot of fun! See you this summer after Contagion hits theaters for some Soderbergh chat?

If you’d like more on Almodóvar, you can check out my mini-marathon that is technically still on-going.


Almodóvar Marathon: “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988)


STARRING: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano, María Barranco

Throughout this mini-marathon, we’ve been sort of jumping around within Almodovar’s filmography without any clear cut route in mind. We (meaning my girlfriend and myself) have just been going where the heart leads. We’ve revisited some of his more recent work and also gone further back to his beginnings (although some of those pictures are difficult to get a hold of [legally]). While none of Almodovar’s work is terribly dark or sinister, a lot of his pictures as of recent have sort of delved into the darker side of humanity. True that most of it is fairly light and breezy, at times even humorous, but still relatively tragic and often sad and even depressing. So we decided it was time to visit the comedic side of Almodovar’s work with his first truly internationally acclaimed picture, Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios; better known to American audiences as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Voice actress Pepa is involved with a married man, Iván, of whom she constantly daydreams and lusts after. In a convoluted series of events that will catch up with our protagonists later on in the film, Pepa traces his movements and discovers that he’s involved with another, quite out of her head lover, with whom he has a grown up son, Carlos. Carlos and his overbearing fiancée arrive at Pepa’s apartment with the intention of subletting the place, unawares that their potential landlord is one of his father’s many lovers. Meanwhile, Pepa’s close friend, Candela drops by the apartment in a panic, claiming she’s on the run from the police who believe she’s mixed up in some sort of terrorist plot and needs a place to hideout. Essentially through a series of missteps, improbable coincidence and misunderstandings, these characters all comedically bounce off one another until all hell proverbially breaks loose.

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Almodóvar Marathon: “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!” (1990)


STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Victoria Abril, Loles León, Julieta Serrano

The first film from Almodóvar I’ve come across that is straight up comedy – at least the first one I remember laughing out loud with so often. As I continue through this leisurely marathon, I expect that I’ll find another comedy somewhere within his filmography, but I’m skeptical that I’ll find one with such darkness, bizzarity or brazenness in its contempt for its characters and almost subversive pondering of male/female sexual politics.

A simpler and easier to follow story from the collected works of Mr. Almodóvar I’ve not seen (yet). It follows the struggle and ordeal of really only two characters and sticks with them (and nearly only them) as their situation complicates and unfolds. A beautiful, young porno star named Maria is attempting to make her way into mainstream film making. Hampering her endeavors is an addiction to drugs and a “holier than thou” attitude. The film within the film, “Midnight Phantom”, is put on indefinite hold when Marina disappears for days on end during production. She has been taken hostage in her own home by an escaped mental patient (Banderas) who has developed an unhealthy obsession with Marina. He busts into her apartment, forcibly and violently restraining her and keeping her tied to a bed and gagged; explaining to her that once she gets to know him, he will be a good husband to her and a wonderful father to their children. As the drama unfolds, the balance of power between the two teeters back and forth before slowly shifting to her side and eventually the entire dynamic of their “relationship” is altered in a way that must be seen to be believed.
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Almodóvar Marathon: “Volver” (2006)


STARRING: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo

Though maybe not Almodóvar’s best effort, it’s likely his most accessible (and probably in his top five) as an enjoying tale that is more than satisfying by the time the closing credits roll; though it takes us on more than one tangential trip to get there. Imagining an absurd Hitchcockian thriller with a dash of comedy and brilliant color sort of explains the look and feel of Volver.

Most of Almodóvar’s films showcase his obvious affection of women: the love of women young and old, the struggles of women and their interactions with one another. Volver is certainly no exception – possibly even the most striking example of this tendency. The film focusses on three generations of women and the emphasis of what it means to be a mother, a daughter and a sister. At times, it even borders on being blatantly anti-men. Raimunda (Cruz) is the main protagonist who plays the feisty mother (and a sister and daughter) of a well mannered typical teenage girl. She struggles to keep the family afloat financially as a series of absurd circumstances begin to run amok. The plot runs simultaneously in so many different directions that it’s difficult to succinctly say what the movie is really trying to get at. There’s a death in the family, a murder with the subsequent effort of getting rid of the body, a friend in the hospital, the illegal running of a restaurant and a hair salon and a spiritual resurrection of a central character returning from the dead to help her struggling family in ways she never could have in life. Suffice it to say, this is the point where absurdity takes over – but most definitely in a good way!
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TIFF 09 Review: Broken Embraces


Director: Pedro Almodóvar (Dark Habits, Bad Education, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Volver)
Writer: Pedro Almodóvar
Producer: Esther García
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, Ruben Ochandiano
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 127 min.


Few, if any, film makers in the world today can be classified as auteur in their strikingly obvious work as readily as Pedro Almodóvar. You won’t find a director working today with a better eye for color theory and technique and it is equally doubtful you’ll find someone who is so obvious in their painstaking, meticulous attention to set detail and lighting. He’s been doing this type of film for so long that one would think at some point he would almost become a parody of himself as he churns out yet another delicious operatic yarn of colorful drama. But the beauty and brilliance of each and every shot (and I mean every shot) in his latest film, Broken Embraces just goes to show that a director can keep on doing what they do well and continue to amaze audiences without pandering or becoming a stale caricature of themselves.

The narrative in hindsight is really rather simple. A blinded screenwriter/director recalls his past to a young protégé in which he accounts for his time with a beautiful young actress with whom he falls in love. Unfortunately she is attached to an older, sugar daddy who also happens to be financing the film the two are making. As he slowly uncovers the love affair between the two, things begin to get hairy with a camera spying son and a jealousy bordering on psychotic which slowly unveils shocking truths leading up to the director’s blindness, loneliness and subsequent working block.
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