If you happen to have read this blog in the past few months, you know that I’ve been chomping at the bits finally to see The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito), the newest feature by the great Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. So did I see it? Yes, when it FINALLY opened a few weeks ago in ‘my part of the country’ after its May premiere in Europe. So why have I remained mute about it? Well, it’s like this: after I saw it, the only thing I could think was, “I need to see that again.”
La piel had a strange effect on me. Though it runs for 117 minutes, when the credits rolled, I couldn’t believe that I had just finished watching an entire feature film. I’m hard pressed to say why. It’s not like the pace of the narrative was dizzying or frantic. In fact, when it was over, I had the distinct sense that there were many fewer twists and turns than in a lot of Almodóvar’s plots.
But upon further reflection, I don’t think that’s quite right. The central plot of the film resolves into one stupendous twist so spectacular that it obfuscates many smaller revelations and surprises along the way. But that largest of revelations comes about late in the game, and it feels slow to arrive. Maybe the issue is that the film’s tone is so austere that we aren’t as invested emotionally in the plot’s unraveling.
But this is where it gets really tricky, because I would never say that this movie is “cold”. It’s not. It’s got plenty of deep, complex emotions (though no humor to speak of, a major departure for Almodóvar.) And yet, when the movie was over, I felt numb, like I was coming out of a haze. There’s something about this film that anesthetizes the viewer to its own content, and I can’t pinpoint what it is. Nor do I think this is a miscalculation. Much to the contrary, I think this is exactly what Pedro was after.
And now I’m chomping at the bits to see it again, but it only played for one lousy week in Cincinnati. Jehovah only knows when it’s coming out on DVD.
Thankfully, the score is out on iTunes, and, as we’ve come to expect from Alberto Iglesias, it’s a humdinger. Iglesias’ talents are simply amazing. I don’t know how he manages to match Almodóvar tone for tone in all of his movies, though, when I think about it, maybe it’s not that hard — Almodóvar might be the most “musical” of all film directors. The emotional landscapes he chooses to explore are the very interstitial places that are usually accessible to harmony alone.
But no, Alberto Iglesias is really pretty amazing.
ps. I just found out that Dan Tepfer, who I’m mildly obsessed with because of his exquisite work on the new Bach Goldberg Variations/Variations album (which you should all buy and listen to immediately), wrote his second ever blog post on The Skin I Live In. It may be time to change that ‘mildly’ to ‘intensely’. I’ll try to keep it short of ‘unhealthily’.