Customer Reviews: The Skin I Live in (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
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The most important thing I can tell you about Pedro Almodóvar's film, The Skin I Live In (original Spanish title: La piel que habito) is that you should avoid as much as possible knowing anything about it beyond the most basic setup before seeing it. This is one of those cases where spoilers truly can rob you of the full experience of a film. I say this as someone who went into the movie knowing little about it beyond the fact that Pedro Almodóvar directed it and that it had to do with a plastic surgeon obsessed with a mysterious female patient. And that really is the best way to see it.

Adapted from Thierry Jonquet's novel Tarantula (original French title: Mygale) by Pedro Almodóvar and his brother Agustín Almodóvar, The Skin I Live In is a complex and, as the background layers are peeled away through revelation, deeply disturbing and chilling film.

It begins in the present day where we see Robert Legard (Antonio Banderas), a prominent plastic surgeon and medical researcher who, because of the tragic death of his wife in a fiery auto accident several years earlier, is obsessed with creating a new kind of skin superior to the skin we're born with, one that is not only both tougher and more resistant to burning and injury but also heals quicker and with little to no scarring. In his mansion, Dr. Legard has a special patient under his private, personal care, a young woman named Vera (Elena Anaya), on whom he is trying his new skin out. Our first impression is that Vera is a burn victim that Legrand is caring for, but it quickly becomes clear that Vera is more prisoner than patient. But just who is Vera? And how did she come into Legrand's rather questionable 'care'? And why does she so strongly resemble Legrand's dead wife?

As in so many his films, The Skin I Live In has many of Almodóvar's almost trademark themes running all through it: complex familial relationships; the intertwining of family and personal secrets; the nature of desire, brutality and obsession; the lengths to which individuals can and will go; how actions can have the most unexpected and sometimes devastating consequences, and how, ultimately, we can never escape our pasts.

The performances are pitch perfect, most particularly Antonio Banderas' controlled and controlling - and casually chilling - Legard, who has his mansion wired so that he can observe his 'patient' from almost any part of the house, and Elena Anaya's Vera with her perfect face and body and the haunted eyes that peer out from the skin she lives in, always aware that she is being observed. Added into the mix - and subtly working in other elements from classic standards of horror - are Marisa Paredes's Marilia, Legard's old housekeeper who serves as a kind of matronly Igor to Legard's Victor Frankenstein, fiercely loyal but openly disapproving; Roberto Álamo's Zeca, a brutal criminal on the run who serves as a kind of Hyde to Legard's Jekyll - lust, rage and animal cunning to Legard's cool controlled calculation. And last but not least, Jan Cornet's Vicente, a callow young fool whose impulsive self-indulgence triggers a chain of events with consequences more dire than he could imagine. All of whom are bound to each other in ways known and unknown.

The only reason I rate this four stars instead of five and call it a near-masterpiece instead of an all-out masterpiece is in how the final acts play out. After taking the viewer through a series of ever deeper and increasingly disturbing revelations, Almodóvar seems to settle for what I felt was a disappointingly conventional resolution. But that said, the film still stands out for all of the unexpected places it did take you before that slip back into the expected. There may be times when you'll think you've seen this movie before and you know what's going on, but I assure you, you haven't and you won't until the revelations have been made.

Highly recommended for any fan of Almodóvar's and for anyone else who likes well-crafted films that really push the boundaries.
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on April 7, 2012
A fascinating and powerful departure for Almodovar, or perhaps more
accurately more an terrific hybrid of the best of his old and new.
This has the darker, more actively perversely disturbing and violent themes
of some of his early work like 'Matador' but shot and directed with the
far smoother and more mature hand he has developed over the years. It
also uses the more complex and fractured time structure style of
Almodovar's more recent work, to great effect.

In the end it's a gorgeous looking, philosophically complex mystery and
horror film. Although not gory, this is a disturbing work, both on a
literal story level, and also for the questions it raises about sexual and personal
identity, love, sado-masochism, and passion run amok.

These themes are all Almodovar touchstones, but delivered here with a
visually stunning icy touch, and with much more complete logic than in
his early works, which often felt less fully thought through, and had
more frustrating plot holes and character leaps.

Not a 'scary' film, but a creepy, moody and highly effective one. A
dark fairy tale as told by, say Stanley Kubrick.

It's good to see Antonio Banderas reunited with Almodovar, and he
delivers a wonderfully complex and quirky modern day Dr. Frankenstein.

Less emotional than my two very favorite Almodovar films (Talk to Her,
All About My Mother), but its exciting to see this extremely talented
film maker continue to evolve and grow, and I think this represents
work that can stand among his best.
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on September 7, 2013
I bought this movie sight unseen because I like Banderas and Elena Anaya, neither one disappoints. Anaya is pretty much the perfect woman physically (I've never met her) and Banderas is handsome of course and has an intensity about his acting that transcends nationalities. This was a tighter, more stylish film than I thought it would be.
At first I dismissed it as another Human Centipede kind of movie but it is far far better than that. A sleek, sophisticated, stylish thriller.
Sure there's a lot of violence and nudity and shocking moments but it's also a very cool movie and I had no problems watching the characters interact or understanding their intentions.
The director/writer is brilliant and never mind what anyone says about the film being disturbing because it's genius and one of the most original thrillers I've seen in a long long time.
I would equate this more with David Cronenberg's The Fly and Dead Ringers (two films I love) than with anything else. It's main theme of transformation and experimentation resides within both of those films as well, I just wonder what Vera's life would be like after the credits roll. It would be great to see a sequel to this or even a trilogy like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which is another disturbingly-beautiful film I would equate this with, but only if the director remained and only if Elena Anaya would continue her role and if the standards of quality both in directing and in writing would not diminish....
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on November 2, 2013
As a movie to watch on Halloween I couldn't have chosen a better DVD. Pedro Almodóvar's film, The Skin I Live In (we watched the original Spanish version La piel que habito, with excellent English sub-titles) is a movie that proves the power of the imagination is far more chilling and intense than any graphic or gratuitous violence can ever be.

It's impossible to review the movie without giving away too much of the complex and clever plot and it's that which keeps you breathless throughout the whole 115 minutes. All the cast presented superb performances, from the brutal Zeca (Roberto Álamo) to the foolish Vincente (Jan Cornet), from the blindly loyal Marilia (Marisa Paredes) to the haunted Vera(Elena Anaya).

However, it was the commanding performance of Antonio Banderas as prominent surgeon and researcher Dr Robert Legard who played a pivotal role. In the hands of a lesser actor, the labyrinthine torment that motivated Legard's actions could easily have become parody; Banderas played the role to perfection.

Although Almodóvar kept the tension high right until the penultimate scene, the final scene was less satisfying than the rest of the film demanded, although I'm sure many viewers will be perfectly satisfied with it. If Banderas' performance of Legard had not been so immaculate, I may have been satisfied with the ending but, as it is, the complexities of love and desire which were explored in the final stages of the relationship between Legard and Vera had too-convenient a resolution.

Still, it was a strong enough ending to keep the movie a 5* viewing experience that is both thought-provoking and powerful. And far too scary, even for Halloween!
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on February 2, 2014
I saw this film on late night TV and had to buy it. If you are a dyed in the wool feminist you will take to the streets, touting it's complete retribution for the rape of this girl. I won't ruin the plot for you but this is a must see with a surprise twist that'll slap at that part of you that believes pigs need to be slaughtered. :)
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on February 15, 2015
Strange but fascinating sci-fi story. I always get a kick out of foreign movies' twists and turns, sometimes to your satisfaction - sometimes not. No question about it, it's different. However, you should read some of the detailed reviews in order to have a better overall understanding of the film prior to seeing it. It certainly takes revenge and obsession to the highest degree. As implied by one or two reviews, the movie does not pamper you and you may need to come up with your own interpretation of the whys-and-wherefores of human nature.
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on April 19, 2016
Insane, graphic, and grotesque, this is certainly an Almodovar film. Not for the faint of heart due to the ***SPOILER*** two rape scenes and excessive nudity. An undeniably incredible film from a critic or film student's point of view, but much too upsetting for the common viewer, or at least those used to hollywood cinema.
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on December 18, 2015
I loved this movie! It is dark and twisty but the plot twists are pretty amazing. Even though it is in spanish it did not seem like an issue to read the subtitles. Antonio Banderas has completely transformed himself from his usual roles which was pretty impressive. I think that this is a great movie to watch (not for everyone) if you like twists and dark motives.
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on March 14, 2015
Complex, visually gorgeous, sumptuous cinematography. A fascinating and at times shocking script.

It's a multi-layered film, but in part, it's about a doctor who plays God. He uses another human as a test subject in an absolutely detached, absolutely cold-blooded manner. Then, he falls in love with his creation. But the film is about much more.

It has a vaguely futuristic feel, and yet you can't put your finger on why (other than a car that is..vaguely futuristic? merely electric? exotic?)

It's about the kinds of things that can go on behind closed doors. It's partly about how even when people may have suspicions or some kind of awareness of foul or even sickening happenings, they can simply look the other way. It's partly about willful ignorance in the form of professional courtesy. Ethics overlooked in the pursuit of science.

It's partly about how a man can love a woman and yet have no qualms about keeping her (literally) captive. It's partly about how grief can twist and deform, change a person. It's partly about extreme barbarism co-existing with and masked by civilization and gentrification.

It's about a man losing his mind and his ethics and morals and yet being given leeway either because of privileged social and/or professional status or because of familial loyalty.

It's about pushing the boundaries of science. It's about loss of identity, and about assimilation and adaptation in lieu of death. About survival and tenacity, about how deceiving appearances can be, how someone can think and feel entirely at odds with an alternate identity or veneer that they maintain, or that is thrust upon them, and about the temporality versus permanence of change.
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VINE VOICEon February 23, 2012
Every now and then a film comes and introduces to the audience an entirely new unheard of concept. The Skin I Live is a film with a unique plot, very well dramatized, high intensity story, some super acting and ended making me wish there were maybe three of four minutes more to it.

Of whatever little I have seen of Antonio Banderas, this is his best film.

The director Pedro Almodvar has made some outrageous films. Let's talk - "All about my mother" , "Volver" , "Broken Embraces" , "Talk to her" were made with such a heavy unforgiving sincerity. His work, I dare add is no less than a great book or a great painting which lasts for years - it is art. Of these films, All About My Mother was the most poignant one but imagine this - I think the director may just have raised the bar a little with "The Skin I Live In"

A real treat and easily among my top 5 films of 2011. The makers of the film deserve all the academy awards they can get but I won't be surprised if this is overlooked as it doesn't have a political message but there is a wondrous world this director manages to create within his films and for the love of that, this film deserves to be watched. The Skin I Live In stands alone, I have never seen anything like it. It will disturb you, rot your mind but in the end, own your vote of confidence.
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