I am Spanish and a long time fan of Almodovar's oeuvre. Both things are important, I think, to understand his cinema and perceive it not as weird (like many other audiences from anywhere else) and bizarre, but as a clear portrait of the author's and his country's psyche. La piel que habito is much more of the first -dwelving in Almodovar's most recurrent wishdream- than the second- like most of his latest movies, this is not about our collective psyche, and I miss that Spanish flavor we found last in Volver, because it is wonderful to see your own world portrayed in such beautiful and deep way. We liked La piel que habito,mostly because of Alcaine's wonderful cinematography and Almodovar cinematic sense. The film is mostly a wonderful collection of fetishist images that the plot struggles to justify. I will mention just one small example: one of Vera's dresses, designed to protect her skin, has zippers under her breasts. To begin with, Vera's new skin is strong and flawlessly finished, but the tight jersey jumpsuit is beautiful, disturbing and sexy... but why the zippers? why does Vera needs zippers under her breasts? she doesn't, but the film does, for Zeca to open them, expose and suck Vera's breast through the zippers, thus creating a wonderful visual fetish. Zeca's character in disguise is another example, and all the film is, in my opinion, of Almodovar wanting to give us these wonderful visual moments. And we thank him for that. Most films nowadays are centered in the plot and dialogs, forgetting that cinema should be mostly about images. Almodovar's psyche, on the other hand, is in such powerful need of analysis and exploration that sometimes he gets carried away. The perfect transformation of gender, without any traces of its masculine side, to become the most perfect and feminine being, is the dream he seems to explore here. And he looses it, not minding that the two actors have nothing in common, not even their eyes, their teeth, the bony structure, nothing! -and that totally breaks suspension of disbelieve, and you really have to love Almodovar to bear with him and pretend you believe the story- but you don't, because it is unbelievable. In the same way, it is not plausible that Vicente becomes the most feminine woman in every sense (the way she moves, the voice!, how she behaves, etc) when he is psychologically masculine. Both these problems could have been easily solved (modest opinion!). The first, by using the same actress to play both parts,masculine and feminine (but of course this would not be the total, perfect transformation dreamed by Almodovoar). The second, by trying to justify it psychologically, through, for example, the Stocolm syndrome. But again, when Vera goes to his/her mother and tells her "Soy Vicente" (I am Vicente)is the perfect moment. And he wouldn't spoil that for anything. It is sad, when I've just watched one of my favorite's new films, because that means we'll have to wait again two years for his next one, specially when you realize it is good, but it is not perfect as many of his films are... so we will wait... for Mina.
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