tongue-tied lightning


The Best Films of 2011: #2 The Skin I Live In

I don’t think any of the other films I saw in 2011 ingrained themselves as deeply in my consciousness as The Skin I Live In. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it as I walked out of the theater, wandering aimlessly down the street and into the nearest Thai restaurant. A man behind me idly mused to his spouse “I’m not even sure why the Tiger guy was in the film…” and I thought “Yeah, what was with that guy?” as I tried to see how many shrimp I could fit onto the tines of my fork. But like so many great works of art Almodovar’s film refuses to let you go, coming to mind at the most random of times, begging you to revisit it, making you realize it has appreciated in your mind even without your revisiting it, by simple means of contemplation.

The film is a classic example of termite art, seeming at first to be nothing more than lurid, if entertaining, melodrama, it is at heart a pretty incisive look into gender, identity and female victimization in cinema. I’m not sure I’m capable of exploring that aspect of the film any better than Macrology did here, so I’ll just point you to that post and move on. Never one to hide his influences Almodovar is clearly drawing on Vertigo and Eyes Without a Face but the central “twist” (if you can call it that) lends the film a heightened level of perversity. This is mitigated somewhat by the surgical detachment with which Almodovar observes the proceedings (which isn’t to suggest the film is emotionless, far from it), an approach that also serves to align our sympathies with the Antonio Banderas character, at least initially.

There is so much to discuss regarding this film I really don’t think I can do it justice here. In fact its complexity is what kept me coming back to it again and again, seeing it three times in less than two months. So I’ll just comment on a few things. One of my favorite scenes has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the film, in which a woman’s spurned husband brings his errant wife’s clothing into a consignment store. Grace notes such as this can carry a lot of weight and I think it serves as a pretty direct rebuttal to the critics who claimed the film was humorless. The cinematography is as gorgeous as you’d expect from an Almodovar film and the score is easily one of my favorites of the year. As are the lead performances from Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, the former returning to the director who made him famous after over two decades. The final scene might also be my favorite of the year, especially viewed in light of earlier interactions between the two characters it features, lending an appropriate underlying perversity to its perfection.