Friday, February 27, 2009

Live Flesh (1997)

Spanish (Carne Trémula)

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Okay, if you haven’t noticed, I am absolutely crazy about Pedro Almodóvar.  He is the perfect combination of weird kitsch and old Hollywood film technique. He’s as macabre and witty as a Billy Wilder with subtitles.

Yet the thing with any Almodóvar film is, you cannot summarize the story.  He is just brilliant like that.

The movie stars Javier Bardem, pre-No Country For Old Men, as David, a cop. There is also a brief cameo by a very pregnant Penelope Cruz giving birth on a city bus…which is how the movie starts.

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So we fast forward, that baby has now grown into a hot young Spaniard. He gets involves with a femme fetal, heroin addict named Elena. Enter scene, or rather burst in, an alcoholic cop (who beats his wife) and his partner.That partner is David (Bardem) who at the end of the scene, saves the heroin addict and in the process gets shot.

Fast forward. David has married Elena, who has undergone a major makeover after detox (I guess all that heroin turned her hair into a blonde afro. She looks very high fashion Vogue though.) and now is a hot brunette that resembles a 90’s version of Liz Hurley. David on the other hand, got shot, right, so now he is on a wheel chair.  He likes to eat her out (cunnilingus) yet Elena is very satisfied.

Victor comes out of jail and seeks out the former junkie and the paraplegic cop.

The title I guess is a reference to how after years in prison, and how after years of obligatory marriage to cripple, Victor and Elena are tantalized by the idea of live flesh.

This film reminds me of an opera. Or do I mean soap opera? I mean, it is a Ruth Rendell adaptation (very loosely adapted—which is special because this is the one occasion where Almodóvar shares writing credit), which makes it eligible for a Lifetime TV movie. Actually, maybe I mean to say that this movie’s high drama reminds me of a Greek tragedy.  Yes, that describes where I am coming from with my opinions. The movie has a quality of heightened intense drama, with a dash of film noir and a Latin soap opera.

It is very odd, yet conventional. That’s the beauty, I guess, of Almodóvar’s films: it’s paradoxical themes refuse to be categorized into a specific genre.

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If you are fan of Billy Wilder’s odd sense of humor, this movie is an even more exaggerated version—the characters are worthy of the Norma Desmond Award.

So watch it, if you are interested in something familiar, yet truly different.

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