Spain’s bad-boy-turned-Oscar-darling Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother) has been getting surprisingly good press for his latest film, The Skin I Live In. Surprisingly, only because the reliably outrageous and witty director has delivered a film so preposterous and grotesque that even all that famous Almodovar style can’t obscure its essential pointlessness. Imagine a mash-up of Boxing Helena and The Abominable Dr. Phibes as directed by David Cronenberg pretending to be schlockmeister Roger Corman and you get the merest idea of what Almodovar is up to.
He’s once again reunited with Antonio Banderas, who stars as Dr. Robert Ledgard, a famed plastic surgeon who has gradually morphed into a mad scientist after his beloved wife was burned unrecognizably in a car crash years earlier. This not-so-good doctor has been illegally using human-animal gene splicing to create a “superskin” in the lab in his mansion. The guinea pig for these experiments is a gorgeous woman who is mysteriously kept prisoner in Ledgard’s house. And that’s just the start of this never-dull film, which also includes for your viewing pleasure a home invasion, two rapes, and what I assume is the first vaginoplasty operation to be featured at the cineplex.
As medical horror stories go, this one generates more laughs than chills. Still, from the soundtrack to the set design, Skin is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking. And Almodovar does pull a sly doozy of a trick on the audience before the last scalpel – and bullet – finds its target. You’ve been warned!
The Skin I live in ★★½
Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya
R – 117 minutes
Opens Friday at the Odeon