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Victor, born on a bus in a more typical Almodovar opening sequence featuring Penelope Cruz as his mother, is a loner and a man on the edge. He stalks Elena, a junkie-prostitute-drug dealer and forces his way inside her apartment. When two cops subsequently bust her for possession, they don't count on Victor, there with her, who pulls a gun on the cops in a scene that ends with one of them being paralyzed from a shot to the base of his spine.
Victor is nabbed and sent to prison. On his release, he discovers that Elena, whom he still lusts for, is now married to the paralyzed cop. And of course Victor cannot leave well enough alone.
It's the interplay of the second cop, the second cop's wife, Victor, and Elena that brings the emotional fluids here to a boil. The story development including surprising revelations establishes a momentum that results in a climax more than worthy of the preceding events, and that more than justifies the label of thriller for this film.
Lust, jealousy, murder, betrayal--all the juicy stuff that thrillers are made of--are, in the hands of a unique Spanish director, given a searing life of their own. It's truly a wonder to see this perfect mesh of out-of-control emotions, Spanish culture, and dazzling eroticism.
A brilliant film. Although All About My Mother is superb, it is more a return to Almodovar's sensibilities. Live Flesh is unique and is even unique for Almodovar. This makes it really special.
As a young man, Victor believes that a one-off sexual encounter with a beautiful Italian junkie is something more than it is, and pesters her to such an extent that she draws a gun on him in order to get him to leave. A struggle ensues. The gun accidentally goes off, and although noone is hurt, it brings the unwelcome attention of two policemen. Another struggle ensues. Another shot is fired. One of the policemen is paralysed from the waist down. From then on, all four of their lives become tragically entwined; with deception and misunderstanding leading towards bitterness and envy. Inevitably, the lies are stripped away, unwanted truths are revealed, and all the various dilemmas are resolved amidst a scene of emotional and actual carnage.
This must sound like heady stuff, almost melodramatic? It is. This is Almodovar, after all. There is the usual complex plotting that reveals the strains that pull apart and bring together relationships while the emotional lives of the characters are laid bare. There is the relentless drive to resolve the emotional dilemmas while avoiding sentimentality. In short, there are all the usual touches that one expects from Almodovar, including the wonderful acting from the cast. Wonderful! A film that will draw you back again and again and again.
Not mentioned in any of the other reviews here is the reason I rented the film: a chance to see Javier Bardem before his triumph as Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnabel's "Before Night Falls." That alone is worth your checking out this movie. Watching Live Flesh," you gain even more respect for his depiction of Arenas. He demonstrates amazing range. There is a gaping chasm between these two characters. Just incredible acting.
[Trivia note: You can check out one of Bardem's first film appearances in an earlier Aldomovar picture called "High Heels." He's on screen for no more than seven seconds as a TV stage technician.]
The story is just as surreal as any he has filmed and certainly the quality of the filming, direction and acting is on a par with the best of his work, but LIVE FLESH deals with some fairly grim issues that in the hands of other directors might have become either ruinous parodies of the old films from the 1940s or as bloody boring and tired retreads. Herein lies Almodovar's magic.
Beginning in 1970 Franco's Madrid, a prostitute (Penelope Cruz) goes into labor and with the aid of what appears to be a transvestite fellow hooker gives birth to a son Victor (later played by Liberto Rabal) - on a bus! Flash forward to the 1990s and Victor is caught in a drug deal by two policemen David (Javier Bardem) and Sancho (Jose Sancho). In the ruckus David is shot in the spine resulting in paraplegia. Victor is imprisoned, David becomes a national hero as a paraplegic basketball player married to Clara who runs an orphanage and though she loves David, her sexual needs are only minimally met by David. Sancho has become an alcoholic macho cop.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This 1997 movie starts with a VERY young Penélope Cruz in labor. She is a working prostitute and this is just one of the hazards of her job. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Jay B. Lane
With Live Flesh (Carne trémula, 1997) Pedro Almodóvar reaches the absolute zenith of his powers, a peak that will continue through three other marvelous films (All... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Film Buff
I've been gradually working my way through older films featuring Javier Bardem once I discovered that he had a very successful career in Spanish films before he ever made his way... Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by Jill Clardy
Huge fan of Javier Bardem because of this film. This introduced me to foreign films. I recommend this movie to anyone who wants an introduction to foreign films. Read morePublished on December 11, 2013 by prroots
best movie from the almodovar collection i believe. the actors are spot on in their roles. it keeps you laughing outloud! Read morePublished on December 17, 2010 by William Parrish
A maturing Almodovar in a less absurd - if still melodramatic - mode than his early films. This time the tone is more film noir/mystery/character study. Read morePublished on July 26, 2010 by K. Gordon
I really don't know how so many people love this film. I just watched it and it is by far Almodovar's worst film. Read morePublished on April 16, 2008 by R. Derieux
i haven't watched the film yet but it seems to be in great shape -- thank you!Published on July 26, 2007 by Anonymous
British crime writer Ruth Rendell gets credit for the original story of this film. But it's hard to picture the kind of darkly original psychological study that director Pedro... Read morePublished on January 18, 2007 by Ronald Scheer
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