The Skin I Live In (2011)

The Skin I Live In [La piel que habito] (2011)

Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo, Eduard Fernández, José Luis Gómez, Blanca Suárez

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Expectations: High. A new Almodóvar is cause for celebration.

Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In is easily my most anticipated film of the year, and now that I’ve seen it I simply stare at the blank computer screen and wonder what to write about it. There are times when writing about film is fun, and then there are others when it seems like work. And then there are times like this, when I find myself unable to pull together enough coherent thoughts to constitute a proper review. It’s not because I don’t know how I feel about the film, it’s more of a general feeling of impressed awe at how much command Almodóvar has over film and his audiences. I don’t care to discuss specifics or to dissect the scenes, and this is where I have a problem trying to write about movies like this. Almodóvar creates films that embody everything I feel is vital for a quality film, perfectly balancing artfulness and heady ideals with a deeply intoxicating, entertaining nature. This is the fourth film I’ve seen of his, and it is the fourth film of his that I’ve loved.

To describe any of the plot would betray much too much about the story. If you’ve never seen any Almodóvar, I’m unsure that this is the place to jump on, but I suppose it would be as good as any other. For the record, the first film I saw was Volver, a truly magical piece of cinema. The Skin I Live In is unique in its feel and its look among the Almodóvar films I’ve seen, and while you could say that about all of them, this one stands out completely. Antonio Banderas returns to work with Almodóvar after a twenty-one year gap and he plays his role flawlessly. This is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen him, encompassing the cold, suave nature of his character and the range of emotions necessary to carry every plot twist the film contains.

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Point Blank (2011)

Point Blank [À bout portant] (2011)

Starring Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Gérard Lanvin, Elena Anaya, Mireille Perrier, Claire Perot, Moussa Maaskri, Pierre Benoist, Valérie Dashwood, Virgile Bramly, Nicky Naude

Directed by Fred Cavayé

Expectations: Pretty high, I’ve heard great things.

Point Blank sets out to make a high-octane, high-stakes thriller where an innocent man gets dragged into the middle of a web of corrupt cops and hardened criminals when his pregant wife is kidnapped. A film like this, with a slim eighty-four minute runtime, should fly by in a flash of excitement and gritty violence. Unfortunately, while Point Blank has its share of great moments, it’s more characterized by its inability to string these together flawlessly. With a story this simple and clichéd, the execution has to be perfect, but instead I found myself watching a cascade of moderately impressive action/chase sequences that I was emotionally disconnected from and I’m having a hard time remembering now, only a few days later.

So yeah, storywise this is remarkably simple, although it’s told in such a way that the viewer must unravel some of the more intricate plot points. The only thing is, when these are unraveled they are so incredibly clichéd and telegraphed that it’s neither a shock or very interesting. While watching Point Blank, I couldn’t escape the fact that I had seen this all done before and in films both better and more interesting. Look at Taken, for instance, a movie that shares many plot points and a very similar, short runtime. Taken never lets up the suspense and the dire situation of getting to Liam Neeson’s daughter as quick as possible is ever-present. In Point Blank, the husband is at the mercy of the people he’s with at the moment and there are large sections of the film where he must deal with the situation at hand, with both the character and the audience knowing that he’s getting no closer to his wife. Yeah… not so exciting.

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