Antonio Banderas

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

Ace surgeon, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), has spent half a dozen years holed up in his home/surgery developing, what he claims, is a skin that cannot burn. Aside from a few colleagues he talks to at work functions and presentations, he spends the majority of his time with his maid, Marilia, and a woman called Vera (Elena Anaya). The latter he keeps locked in a room next his bedroom and on whom he conducts his skin experiments. To say anymore would do the film no real justice.The Skin I Live In is macabre melodrama that reaches out to sci-fi with one hand and strokes the cheek of horror with the other. And, like the previous sentence, it’s a little bit pretentious. Only a bit mind.

The film is broken up into three definable acts. The first comes across as a hurricane of information. People shout, point, run in and out rooms, get raped, shout some more, get shot and then finish off the day shouting. It does what it was in doubt intended to do; grab you by the throat and encourage you to pay attention. The second act is a slower affair detailing the events that led to all the shouting, shooting and pointing. Like coming off the motorway onto a residential street, the change of gear is noticeable and somewhat jarring, but before long Banderas becomes brooding and psychotic and your throat is grabbed again. The final and shortest act can be seen as a bit of a let down. Vera’s story ends in such an understated manner that you feel a little bit cheated. Oh yes, there’s more shouting and pointing, but it doesn’t last very long.

Opening with Anaya performing yoga, Pedro Almodóvar ensures that his leads are immaculate and that each scene they’re in is equally beautiful. The beauty of the photography reflecting  Ledgard’s quest for perfection, whilst, like Vera, hiding the layers of revenge and violence beneath. The Skin I Live In is not an easy film to watch from a moralistic point of view. With the exception of Roberto Álamo as Marilia’s demented son, no one is entirely good or bad. Banderas, himself, goes from sympathetic to repulsive to sympathetic a number of times, whilst the reveal of Vera’s backstory will have you pondering which side you’re on long after the film has finished.

Overall, The Skin I Live In is one of the last great films of 2011 and 2012 will hopefully see it get some more recognition.

Puss in Boots (2011)

The Shrek franchise is the true definition of diminishing returns. The original Shrek was a true family treat. Fart gags for the kids, knob jokes for the parents. Then the sequel came along and, whilst we learnt again that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. By the fourth one, Same Old Shrek, the wheels were firmly spinning in the dirt. Shrek gone through so many life lessons, I was amazed  the married man with three kids had got through life without being killed crossing the street or opening a door.

The pop-references overtook the plot to such an extent that it became less about what was going to happen and more about guessing which of the latest blockbusters was going to get referenced against a backdrop of Eels songs. The last one being a genuine display of drowning in  a pop-culture stew. A stew made of gristle. And poo. And possibly some dead kittens.

Thanks heavens for Puss in Boots. A film which reminds you that you don’t need to play Lady Gaga and reenact the glasses of water scene from Jurassic Park. Antonio Banderas is brilliant as the titular hero who joins forces with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakos) and sultry Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to retrieve magic beans from bandits, Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris).

The film is a swift 90 minutes of genuine joy that doesn’t try to be overtly clever. If there are weak points, then it must be said that are probably one or two many action set pieces. I was too keen to move on to the next bit of dialogue. This a brilliant Christmas movie and hopefully, I mean this sincerely, it won’t lead to any sequels. None. No.

Dreamworks, don’t… Don’t cheapen the moment. Just embrace it. You’ve made a good film. Just savour it and go home. Please.