Archive for the ‘Live Flesh’ Category

Live Flesh

December 17, 2006

Despite the title, this is not a horror movie about a serial killer who flays his victim alive. Rather, it’s about five people who are more than just listlessly wandering through their existences and who wish, in different ways, to be treated as people and not things – live, feeling flesh, in other words.

Victor, the son of a prostitute, tries to hook up with Elena, a druggie with whom he’d had a previous tryst (his first). She resists, the cops are called, and there’s a standoff between Victor and policemen David and Sancho. There’s a struggle, and a gun is fired, leaving David paralyzed and sending Victor to jail.

When Victor gets out of jail, his mind is on bitter revenge, especially after he discovers that Elena, now clean and sober, has married the invalid David, who’s now a paralympic basketball star. Victor gets a job working at the orphanage funded and operated by Elena (but he’s not stalking her, no) and begins to romance Clara, the battered wife of Sancho.

Each of the five characters, unavoidably intertwined, is complex and morally ambiguous. What are Victor’s true intentions? What, even more importantly, are his capabilities? Is Sancho properly haunted by his treatment of Clara and of that fateful night that brought him, David, and Victor together? If Clara does leave Sancho, where will she turn – or is she simply another turn-the-cheek spouse? Does David have a sense of moral superiority because he no longer has use of his lower limbs and therefore has suffered more than most people? And which is stronger, Elena’s lust or her loyalty?

The quintet, whose lives were forever changed that one night, find themselves drawn back together in a web of intrigue of their own design. All of the actors are fantastic, particularly Francesca Neri, as Elena, and Liberto Rabal, as Victor. The onscreen chemistry among all five leads is palpable; no one feels they were just dropped into the movie indiscriminately. Pedro Almodovar’s complicated tale is never preachy, and none of the characters are stereotypical. Not all cops are noble, not all drug addicts are irredeemable, not all orphanage operators are perfect, and not all criminals are despicable. Pretty obvious stuff in the real world, but in the land of movies characters are typically painted with as broad a brush as possible in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The movie is tense without veering toward melodrama, and although it begins rather slowly, the final twenty minutes or so are unsettling, nerve-wracking suspense. I defy you to sit complacently while Elena approaches Victor’s barrio apartment.

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