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“The Skin I Live In,” reviewed

“The Skin I Live In,” reviewed (photo)

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Pedro Almodóvar‘s films are often about concerns of the flesh, live or otherwise, but his latest, “The Skin I Live In,” takes those dermatological concerns to a whole new level. It is about a doctor named Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), who has created a synthetic skin that is far more resilient to damage than normal human tissue. Early in the film he gives an academic presentation on the wonders of skin replacement surgery and how he loves to help people who’ve been horribly scarred reclaim their identities. He talks about the way enriching the lives of others enriches his own life. Isn’t that nice? Sure, but this is an Almodóvar film, so the altruistic doctor also has a woman imprisoned in his estate, and he’s using her as a guinea pig for his skin experiments.

That would be Vera, played by the luminous Elena Anaya (see above, as if I need to tell you — more likely I need to clear my throat and remind you to pay more attention down here). Just like Ledgard, Vera has secrets of her own, and her opinion of — and relationship to — her captor changes with each revelation, an appropriate structure for a film that is ultimately about the idea of human metamorphosis.

Again: this is an Almodóvar film (or “A Film By Almodóvar,” as he likes to phrase it in the credits). That almost automatically means there are heated sex scenes, sudden bursts of violence, and big melodramatic donnybrooks. It’s the sort of picture where a guy can show up at someone’s front door in an inexplicable skintight tiger costume, and that’s only like the fourth weirdest thing in that scene. Almodóvar brings together a bunch of disparate genres: melodrama, of course, plus comedy, science-fiction, and even a bit of horror, though the film, with its crisp, bright cinematography and fastidious production design, looks nothing like a horror movie. Once again, the emphasis is squarely on mutability. One tone and style gives way to the next, and then the next after that.

“The Skin I Live In,” based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet, demands a vigorous suspension of disbelief, but everything ultimately fits together inside the film’s demented sense of logic (or lack of logic). It helps to have two actors as committed to (and as deadpan about) the lunacy as Banderas and Anaya, who both seem blissfully unaware that they’re stuck inside a batshit insane movie with crazy skin grafts and crazy face masks and crazy body suits, and all kinds of other crazy stuff. Banderas has probably never been funnier in a movie without actually doing or saying a single funny thing.

The movie exists in its own strange little world, but it’s a pretty damn fun world to visit for 120 minutes. As another director of corporeal cinema once put it: long live the new flesh.

“The Skin I Live In,” fresh off its Gala Presentation at the New York Film Festival, opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think. Leave us a comment below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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