An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Oriental Theater, Almodovar, The Skin I Live In

At the Oriental Theater on Farwell Avenue, filmmaker Pedro Almodovar took refuge in his versatility to deliver a vexing psychological thriller with recently released The Skin I Live In. Taking Antonio Banderas out of his cartoonish American film typecast, Almodovar spins a convoluted tale oriented around the tightly wound life of renown surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas).

Tinkering with biogenesis  Dr. Ledgard begins receiving attention from the Spanish scientific community for breakthroughs in medicine that enhance human genetics, even in mature adults. From the surface, Ledgard hides his source of passion for his research. The veil of scientific integrity, and an impeccable BMW and severely opulent mansion, make Ledgard appear to be another detached brainiac savant enjoying his intellectual superiority by methodically solving the the world’s problems in his spare time as a favor to humanity.

As the complete picture of Legard’s life unfolds, circumstances of several traumatic life events erode the illusion of Legard’s power and control over his own life, and his altruistic calling. Quietly, fanatical emotion sweeps Legard to a line drawn in the sand by reason, and it’s hard to tell whether he knows he’s standing on the beach. A wife, a daughter, a childhood nanny and a female house-guest of considerable mystery ensure that Legard never knows where he stands, no matter how hard he tries to dictate his own footsteps.

Spanning the Spectrum

Stylistically, Almodovar accents the screenplay with ample allusion, literary parallels, and foreshadowing with his cinematography alone. As the characters’ M.O.’s collide, Almodovar also calls to question our sense of morality, as several difficult themes including sexual abuse, chauvinism, marital fidelity and retribution gird and create tension in the script’s plot.

The Skin I Live In touches on golden age horror and film noir genres, quickly going from believable to I-can’t-believe-I-just-saw-that absurdity that makes fun of itself with a straight face. The non-chronological storyline adds further intrigue to the film’s characters.

The Verdict

Receiving mixed reviews from the film world, this film does two things well, keep you guessing and skin crawling with sufficient morbidity, but without the use of gore. The film is Spanish language with English subtitles and co-stars Spanish starlet Elena Anaya who brings considerable depth to the film as she burns through a gamut of emotions as Legard’s primary subject Vera (the mysterious house-guest).

You can go see for yourself or get a pretty detailed description from the Shepherd Express, and here’s apparently a review from Cannes that thought the film was terrible. If you do go to the show, get there early and be entertained by the Kimball Organ that is still warming up the shows at The Oriental courtesy of the Dairyland Theater Organ Society

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