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Sex, gender, horror and betrayal have all been recurring themes in Pedro Almodovar's works for a long time but never have all these been put together in quite such an arresting and original way as in The Skin I Live In, a film which mixes sci-fi, surrealism and Frankenstein-style madness into a unique creation to say the least, one you're not likely to forget any time soon.

The Hitchcockian flair Almodovar has often demonstrated has somehow matured into a meticulous manipulation of both content and viewer. Here's a story which is told to us unchronologically, with the filmmaker handing out information on characters and plot little by little, crumb by crumb until everything builds up to one of the best twists in any film which will leave you wanting to rush back into the cinema straight after the end credits have rolled.

The horror of the unfolding events never quite sinks in until the very last shot and characters you perceived a certain way change radically so that you're never sure what'll happen next. It's such a clever use of plot devices  even J.J. Abrams will wish he'd thought of it.

The look of the film is also impressive, even for an Almodovar film, and that's saying a lot. Every frame is so beautifully crafted and artistically complete you'll never want to look away. The sci-fi aspect is thankfully underplayed and feels more reminiscent to George Franju's The Eyes Without A Face than anything else. Almodovar uses some of the best art direction I've seen in a while to create a world unlike any other where anything is possible.

A world in which Antonio Banderas is a crazy-ass fuck.

I'm not kidding.

Much like Penelope Cruz, Banderas is so much better in Spanish films you find yourself forgetting he even was in all these so-so Hollywood flicks (barring the Desperado movies and Interview With A Vampire of course). He's terrific throughout and gives one of his all-time best performances. He is supported by an excellent cast which manages to make the most unlikely parts of that story completely believable.

This is one disturbing movie with Almodovar at his most strangely sinister and unforgiving. There is humour here and there but even it is so dark your smile soon fades into a deformed, confused wavy mess. It's an uncomfortable watch at times but it's so compelling that it never affects the viewing experience negatively. Some might find the very end a tad too conventional but perhaps it needed to be in order for the film to make sense. This is one which demands repeat viewings regardless.

Overall, this is one of Almodovar's finest achievements and in time will quite probably be regarded as a masterpiece. It's my pick for the best film of the year so far and I can't wait to revisit it when I get a chance. A must see!


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