THE SKIN I LIVE IN
Dir: Pedro Almodovar - Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes
This year’s BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film went to the latest from Spain’s premier director, a strange and twisted tale that is unlike anything else out there, combining and skipping across genres with manifold skill, and slowly revealing a story filled with suppressed horror and perversity.
Banderas, who starred in Almodovar’s early films before finding stardom in America, returns to the fold as a crazy, widowed Frankenstein doctor, testing skin grafts on a suicidal patient whom he constantly watches on CCTV. It’s a tightly-wound performance, unsettling and cleverly playing against Banderas’ natural charm. Anaya, as the captive woman, is superb, haunting and ambiguous in the central role and subtly changing as more details of the complex twisted story emerge.
But there’s also the housekeeper and her brutish son (who turns up dressed as a tiger) and the real skill of the tale comes in the slow reveal, a brilliant unfolding that recasts early events in a new light.
If this sounds mysterious then that’s because it’s an unusual film, assembled with a precision that mirrors the coldness in Banderas’ eyes, seething with strange passions and designed with Almodovar’s usual fantastic eye for design and detail.
I just don’t get Project X. It has, since release, become something of an internet sensation, being downloaded illegally by – apparently – just about every youth on the planet. They are, after all, the target market. Here’s the story: some fairly obnoxious teens decide to have a huge party; it gets out of control and the neighbourhood gets trashed. That’s it. No noticeable character development, not even any tentative love stories of the American Pie variety. Just a massive destructive party. Eventually a guy arrives with a flamethrower and starts setting fire to the street – awesome dude!
After directing the Charlie’s Angels films and the fourth (disappointing) Terminator flick, one doesn’t expect much from the unusually named McG. But This Means War disappoints even those modest expectations by plumbing depths of predictability and stupidity that will leave all but the most undemanding viewers exasperated. This is action rom-com territory where two spies – Chris Pine, Tom Hardy – fall for the same girl (Reese Witherspoon) and go to absurd lengths to compete for her. It’s big and dumb and not nearly as much fun as it should be despite the enjoyable leads (who all seem to be having a better time than the audience).
And, in the world of sci-fi, everyone seems to be going to Mars. Or Barsoom, as it is called – for no particular reason – in John Carter. This got a sound thrashing at the cinema. It lost a bucketful of money and had people says things like “Worst film eva!”. It’s not. It’s actually pretty good, if slightly old-fashioned in feel. Taylor Kitch stars as a fellow transported to Mars – er, Barsoom – who joins 12-foot alien rebels and ends up saving the planet from Bad Guys. If it wasn’t for Avatar, I suspect this would have been far better received, but it does look a little dated despite impressive effects and ticking all right the ‘epic adventure’ boxes.
But what to say about Red Faction: Origins? It’s a video game spin-off again set on Mars (this time called Mars) a couple of hundred years in the future, made for TV. The titular faction are the Good Guys; marauders are the Bad Guys; both are after equipment on a crashed spaceship. Then the hero’s long-thought-dead sister turns up fighting for an evil third party. Even as television this is pretty lightweight, making little impact with either story or character. The cheap CGI don’t help. Even fans of the game will be underwhelmed by the almost complete absence of action.