What I’ve Been Missing (or Not), Volume 3: The Skin I Live In (2011)

Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet

With this being my second experience with Almodóvar, I can safely assume now more than ever that the auteur in question is indeed in a league of his own. Fusing wildly imaginative, highly intriguing narratives with his trademark noirish sensibilities, Almodóvar has always managed to make a splash within the realm of contemporary cinema in the best possible way. Divisive as his latest effort may be conceptually given the provocative nature of the proceedings, it’s hard to deny that the production as a whole is anything less than startlingly original in the best possible sense. From start to finish, The Skin I Live In is a surreal head-scratcher that can’t help but blur the lines between genres in a way only Almodóvar could.

Focusing on renowned plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard as his latest test subject becomes the recipient of an experimental, organic body armor that will protect her from any and all physical harm, the man’s intentions seem to be driven solely by a string of tragic familial losses. Remaining relatively straightforward if characteristically lofty from a conceptual standpoint, events unfold rather conventionally until the time-jumping narrative slowly but surely reveals the truth behind Dr. Ledgard’s latest, highly unethical science experiment. What The Skin I Live In benefits from most in this regard is Almodóvar’s remarkable attention to detail, ensuring that each intricacy of the central story arc, no matter how subtle, plays a vital part to some degree as the appropriately disjointed narrative rarely ceases to be involving from the get-go.

Certain details remain negligible when paired with the highly distressing bulk of the film, however what the film lacks in terms of thematic substance it makes up for by way of sheer remarkable storytelling. Everything play’s out like an X-rated Grimm’s fairy tale, with Almodóvar juxtaposing important events in such a fashion that every twist and turn remains as shocking as the one preceding it. The frequently unflinching nature of the narrative as a whole may be off-putting to those not familiar with the auteur’s previous, slightly more subdued efforts, but for those looking for something different, The Skin I Live In certainly fits the bill.

Without giving too much away, Almodóvar’s latest is assuredly one of the more ambitious offerings of this past year and then some thanks to sheer uniqueness of it all. It’s wonderfully imaginative without being self-indulgent, well-acted as such and hands-down one of the more involving genre-bending efforts to come around in quite a while. Each not-so-subtle twist is far from predictable and periodically unsettling, however as a purposefully over-the-top examination of a madman plastic surgeon/widower going to exceedingly great lengths to avenge the death of his wife and daughter, The Skin I Live In is truly a one-of-a-kind experience for those open to its absurdity.

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