Cannes 2011 Review: Pedro Almodóvar's Brilliant 'The Skin I Live In'

May 20, 2011

Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In

I love when great films surprise me. Both in terms of story and in terms of my expectations. I had no clue what to expect with Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's latest film La piel que habito, which roughly translates to The Skin I Live In (weird teasers didn't help either), but hot damn was this fantastic. Pedro is a Cannes Film Festival regular but has delivered a film this year that is completely different from most of his previous work yet still kicks ass. It was a wild and crazy experience, to be frank, but damn good. In fact, I'll even call it a brilliant film for the story and its ideas and the way Almodovar challenges sexuality.

As much as I'd love to dive into a full discussion on this film, there are certain story elements which I dare not spoil and will stay away from ruining. The basic plot is that Antonio Banderas plays a rich, genius surgeon/doctor who is keeping a women locked up in his lavish home. He's not mean to her and is pretty much just holding her to keep her pure and untouched. At first we see he's attempting to develop skin so tough that it won't burn, but we soon discover he has darker intentions and we're thrown down the twisted Almodovar rabbit hole that is crazier than anyone could imagine. I'd like to call this the Antichrist of Cannes 2011, but there's no clit cutting or penis smashing, thank goodness, but there are crazy plot twists like that.

Anyone who has seen an Almodovar film knows to expect lush, colorful set design, gorgeous cinematography, intense performances, and much more. The Skin I Live In has all that, but it's the story that makes this one such a fascinating, edge-of-your-seat-like thriller (even though it comes in at 120 minutes), exploring ideas related to sexuality that only someone like Pedro Almodovar could address with this kind of finesse. He's able to keep all of the story elements coherent and connected while telling a completely unlinear story with many unique reveals along the way. It's truly a film that only Almodovar could've directed.

What I loved most about The Skin I Live In is the way it challenges sexuality (as ambiguous as that sounds). I can't really talk about exactly how without ruining the plot, but Almodovar sets up sexuality one way then completely twists it later on. Not only does it fit with the story but it will unquestionably cause some moviegoers to end up uncomfortable and that's exactly why I love it. I've never seen any filmmaker tackle these ideas so subtly yet still deliver a beautiful film filled with beautiful people that was satisfyingly entertaining throughout. Almodovar seems to have a knack for that kind of storytelling but truly knocks it out of the park this time.

As expected, the performances are all top notch as well and this would not have been nearly as good if it weren't lead by fantastic actors like Antonio Banderas and Spanish actress Elena Anaya. Banderas is the best he's been in years, intense at times, sensual at others, a tour de force that brings a quality that makes this so great. I didn't expect to love a new Almodovar film this much, but I did love it, and if anyone else wants to get a glimpse of (more) Spanish filmmaking at its finest, make sure to catch The Skin I Live In in theaters later this year.

Alex's Cannes Rating: 9 out of 10

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Reader Feedback - 11 Comments


 One of my most anticipated this year. Glad to hear it's that awesome!

Davide Coppola on May 20, 2011


Sounds interesting. How was the soundtrack?? The music for the last teaser sounded amazing!

Ron on May 20, 2011


The score was incredible, another one of my favorites from this year, can't wait to get the soundtrack for it!

Alex Billington on May 21, 2011


Hello Ron: Here you can listen to the first track out the La piel que habito Soundtrack which it is the one being played on the teaser trailer. Warm regards from Spain.

Jorge Delgado on May 21, 2011


Thanks a lot! It sounds amazing! I am definitely getting the soundtrack when it comes out. 

Ron on May 21, 2011


Thanks for pointing this one out to me. It sounds delicious.

Moif on May 21, 2011


When it's released in the U.S., maybe they could re-title it as, "The Aristocrats."

Oliver Clozoff on May 21, 2011


Just saw this film in France and it's not only provocative and stunning in every way. No reason to re-title...why the Aristrocats?

Constancewit on Sep 8, 2011


Oh yeah - violent rape scenes are the BESTEST!  More of THAT please. Can't wait for the scene where he rapes a man he has surgically made to look like his daughter! That's gonna be AWESOME. Film reviewers are so in touch with reality!  They must know lots of rape victims and fully understand how totally appropriate this all is!  Truly, there hasn't been a better movie since that masterpiece "The Room". 

Whatiswrongwithyou on May 21, 2011


If you like incestuous rape, you'll LOVE Antonio Bandaras' new movie!

Whatiswrongwithyou on May 22, 2011


I'm looking forward to seeing this one. Without having yet read the book its based on (but I intend to) I already had an idea what direction the storyline was headed in. I guess I've read one too many Angela Carter novels. The one thing that I do find the most disturbing ...not to give too much away for those who either haven't seen it or don't yet know the plot the facial similarity between "Eve" and someone close to the surgeon. Now THAT I found creepy!

Cinema Nostalgia on May 22, 2011

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