Film Review: The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In is an excellent film. Pedro Almodóvar’s film is unusual and fascinating, and is highly recommended.

After his wife was horrifically burned in a car accident, plastic surgeon Dr Robert Ledgard has been trying to develop artificial skin. After much testing, he has developed skin that is more resilient than natural skin, and is immune to mosquito bites.  With his faithful assistant Marilia at his side, Robert needs to test his creation out on a subject…

What works so well in The Skin I Live In is the way in which the narrative is constructed. Almodóvar throws viewers into the action, before offering some explanation and background in lengthy flashback sequences. The film retains a sense of mystery until the reveal. There are clues, so some viewers may already guess the outcome. Those that do not guess, will find the reveal surprising and welcome. There are indications that the film may head in a different, even more surreal direction.

Despite the dramatic nature of The Skin I Live In, the film does have some humorous moments. In keeping with the tone of the film, any comedy is unmistakably black. The drama in Almodóvar’s film is sometimes shocking, but never unconvincing. The Skin I Live In is very well crafted, and ensures that the audience is always absorbed.

The film walks the fine line between quirky and accessible. The narrative is bizarre and the film offers a number of surreal moments. These are executed very well, and can be amusing or surprising. Nonetheless, the film never veers too far off the path; it is mainstream despite its peculiarities. The film works on a surface level, as well as delving underneath the epidermis.

Art direction in the film is superb. The whole picture is preoccupied with the form. The cinematography is beautiful. It perfectly captures the flawless skin of Vera. The film has a sheen reminiscent of a glossy magazine. It is highly polished and immensely pleasing to the eye.

Antonio Banderas gives a solid performance as Robert. Elena Anaya is fantastic as Vera. Her beauty makes her perfectly for the role, and she shows a good range. Marisa Paredes is great as the loyal Marilia, while Jan Cornet is well cast as Vicente.

The Skin I Live In is highly recommended. If you manage to avoid finding out the reveal beforehand, then the film is even better.

Film Review: Point Blank

Point Blank is a lively French thriller that should entertain most cinemagoers. The film’s frenetic pace makes up for its lack of depth.

Samuel Pierret is a nurse living with his heavily pregnant wife. When Samuel saves the life of thief Sartet, his wife his taken hostage. In order to ensure her safe return, Samuel must spring Sartet from the hospital. Things don’t go according to plan, and both Samuel and Sartet face a race against time and their enemies…

Point Blank offers a fairly standard narrative for the action thriller genre. Some of the film’s twists and turns are incredulous, which seems like a prerequisite of the modern thriller. Nevertheless, these shortcomings can be forgiven as does a good job of entertaining throughout.

There is a distinct lack of character development in Point Blank; the action commences very quickly and there is little downtime from this. However, the lack of depth actually works in the film’s favour on this occasion. Functioning as an everyman, it is not difficult to identify with Samuel Pierret. The protagonist’s motivations and actions are completely understandable given the context. The fact that he is just an average man heightens the perilousness of the situation.

Similarly, very little is revealed about Sartot. The ambiguity of this character serves to retain a sense of mystery for most of the film. There is a real sense of threat, which is exacerbated by Pierret’s heavily-pregnant wife Nadia. With all the twists, it is difficult for both Pierret and the audience to judge who to trust. Sartot is at the centre of this nebulousness; his role in proceedings remains unclear until the finale.

Director Fred Cavayé exhibits a fluid style that is pivotal to the film’s momentum. The camera work is kinetic, and at times dizzying with its frequent hand-held shots. This works well, however, when combined with the booming soundtrack. The sense of urgency is really portrayed both visually and aurally. The only real letdown is the security footage, which looks hopelessly staged.

Gilles Lellouche expresses appropriate tension and intensity as protagonist Pierret. Roschdy Zem makes a sombre ally as the ambiguous Sartot. His mannerisms effectively convey the coldness he shows at certain points in Point Blank. Gérard Lanvin tries to bring some presence to the rather one-dimensional police detective Werner, and Elena Anaya has little to do besides look frightened.

Point Blank is not the most original of thrillers. But the film is short and sweet, which makes it a more pleasurable watch than a number of other recent additions to the genre.