Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Skin I Live In - Dir. Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar is not a conventional filmmaker by any means. His films openly explore subjects many acclaimed directors fear to tread and absorb in their whole entire careers, but what is always guaranteed with Almodovar is a sense of wonderment and the unexpected, and ‘The Skin I Live In’ (‘La piel que habito’) is no different. Based briefly on Thierry Jonquet’s 2003 novel ‘Mygale,’ Almodovar’s latest film is a delightful and refreshing combination of multiple genres including drama, thriller and body horror. It’s shockingly sincere, beautifully horrifying and has an appeal that will keep the audiences eyes locked towards the events on-screen until the final credits roll.

Dr Robert Lesgard (Antonio Banderas) is a renowned surgeon who is attempting to achieve a breakthrough in bio-medical sciences by creating a synthetic skin through transgenisis. Classified as a horrific mutation by some, and acknowledged by Robert as an innovation, his experiments come at a price. His human test subject is a beautiful woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) who is contained within his home, and cared for by his head servant Marilia (Marisa Paredes). Vera is not like other women, she wears a skin-coloured suit made out of fabric instead of clothes, she is constantly watched by Robert and Marilia, and she never leaves her room, which only Robert himself holds the key too. What follows is a startling journey of discovery as the narrative unravels a story of disturbing past, present and future events; transforming the lives of all those involved.

Beginning in Toldeo in 2012, Almodovar utilizes a constantly underused and underappreciated device in the nonlinear narrative. He provides the audience with one perception of each character before returning in flashback during the second act to six years previously where further events are explained and through this, the audience’s initial observations of the characters become undermined and drastically altered. He then digresses between past and present at will building a comprehensive picture of each character involved as the story develops revealing some startling and disturbing discoveries. This decision to structure the film in this way, also adequately supplements Almodovar’s need to explore his key themes including sexual identity, and the nature of the moral of ethics of the human soul after it has been literally stripped bare.

Coupled with the beautiful cinematography from Almodovar’s long-time collaborator Jose Luis Alcaine and an original and complimentary score by Alberto Iglesias, ‘The Skin I Live In’ also becomes an example of technically proficient filmmaking which works alongside the performances of the likes of Banderas and Anaya, as well as the slickly written script which keeps the audience on their toes until the final curtain has been dropped. Pedro Almodovar is undoubtedly one of the most successful auteurs of the last few decades, and with ‘The Skin I Live In’ he shows that he can almost touch upon a new genre, in the form of body horror genre-hybrid, whilst also retaining all the previous elements, themes and techniques which have made his films the deep-seated critically successful films that they are.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Inbetweeners Movie - Dir. Ben Palmer

The critically acclaimed E4 comedy series returns for its final swansong in the form of an hour and a half film which contains among other things, sun, sex, booze, sea, booze, and, er, well sex. It is essentially an extended episode, instead of rolling this out as a summer or Christmas special under differing circumstances, writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris who were the primary writers on the television series, have shrewdly decidedly to capitalize on the series’ short fame and enter the cinematic market instead. Will’s (Simon Bird) narration returns as does the crude jokes and the toilet humour, but isn’t that what made the ‘Inbetweeners’ so hilariously funny? It’s a silly, contains a formulaic plot, and stereotypical characters, but what really makes the four boys work, is there childish banter, and sexual optimism that reminds us all of what it was like to be eighteen again.

The last time we saw them on the small-screen, they were finishing up a bonding trip into the woods as each one of them were on a knife edge deciding what they would do for the rest of their lives; university, or the meat-counter at ASDA with a potential promotion up to the check-out in the works? But before they must decide what to do for the rest of their lives (also known as the next five years) they have six weeks to think it over and take the obligatory ‘lads holiday’ which is an old, wise British tradition for any male who reaches the age of eighteen. The tradition consists of the boys going abroad to a country, which in this case is Malia, with plenty of sun, sea, sand, and bars, and seeing how much tolerance their body has to the effects of copious amounts of alcohol, before attempting to see if this makes them any more (or less) attractive to the fellow British revellers. Premise, nice, simple, and set, and the narrative pretty many rolls it’s self out from here.

Again the stars of the show are the characters, with Will’s offbeat precocious nature a nice alternative to the foul-mouthed tirades of Jay (James Buckley) which have seemingly got more and more crude as the television show has gone on. Neil (Blake Harrison) on the other hand acts as welcome relief, always guaranteeing to make a laugh out of any innocuous comment he makes, which is especially helpful during the scenes involving the continued romance between Simon (Joe Thomas) and Carly (Emily Head) as it is one of those aspects they should have left to die gracefully with the television series as it seemingly drags on and on with little in the way of a rewarding conclusion. While, Allison (Laura Haddock), provides the romantic interest for Will, and their scenes are somewhat touching as they both seem fish-out-of-water in this world of drinking for twenty hours, eating for two and sleeping for five minutes.

It will almost certainly come away empty handed when the awards season comes sweeping around in Britain, and it might not very favourable with the print and online critics, but it isn’t half bad as it never tries to be anything more than an feature-length episode. The jokes are still there, Jay’s miraculous lies crop up every now and again, a few old and new faces make welcome cameo’s and the boys still get caught up in many embarrassing situations, the majority of which involve the involuntarily showcasing of their genitals. If you look beyond the unoriginal narrative, the one-dimensional primary protagonists, the stereotypical love interests, and the unsophisticated jokes, you will probably enjoy this film for what it is.