Eleven in ’11: Pedro Almodovar’s THE SKIN THAT I INHABIT

First of all, I dig that title. There’s a strange kind of poetry in something that seems like such a precise translation – the Spanish title is LA PIEL QUE HABITO, which I’ve also seen translated as ‘The Skin I Live In’, a title that rolls off the tongue a little easier but doesn’t have quite the same slightly unsettling quality. ‘Inhabiting’ one’s skin suggests a temporary or transitory situation…well, to me at least. As they say, your mileage may vary. Nevertheless, cool title, Pedro.

Secondly, Banderas. It was Almodovar’s WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN that first hipped me to this guy, and since then I’ve admired the grace, intensity and versatility he’s displayed in a wide variety of roles. (And THE MASK OF ZORRO is one of the finest Hollywood adventures movies of the last 50 years. No shit.) But there’s no denying he’s been a bit off the boil recently, popping up in direct-to-DVD stuff I can’t even be bothered downloading. Not that I do that anyway. Seemingly supplanted by Javier Bardem as Hollywood’s go-to Spaniard, it’s highly possible that a reunion after 20-odd years with the director who gave him his initial break could serve as a potent reminder of what Banderas can do. Plus he’s got a few years on the meter now, and it shows, but he’s also wearing it well.

Thirdly, this just sounds creepy. And looks creepy. Check this out:

Your guess is as good as mine, pal.

This is the only SKIN THAT I INHABIT image so far released, and I gotta say that it’s piqued my interest. That the imagery brings to mind Georges Franju’s creepy classic LES YEUX SANS VISAGE/EYES WITHOUT A FACE is undeniably cool, and one can only hope that Almodovar conjures up a similarly disturbing tone. While his flair for the melodramatic is well-known, he’s also a filmmaker with a knack for evoking dread – check out the likes of MATADOR or BAD EDUCATION for further evidence.

But THE SKIN THAT I INHABIT sounds unlike any material he’s tackled in the past, with Banderas playing either (a) a doctor creating a skin that could have saved the life of his wife, who died in a car accident years earlier, or (b) a doctor out for revenge against his daughter’s rapist. The first option is the storyline of the Thierry Jonquet novel MYGALE, on which Almodovar’s screenplay is based. The second option is a storyline I’ve heard about for a while now, and Banderas’ revenge involves performing a sex-change operation on the rapist. Maybe I’m just all kinds of wrong but I prefer the second. It sounds magnificently twisted and right up Almodovar’s dark, kinky alley.

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