Live Flesh (Pedro Almodóvar, 1997)


Javier Bardem (David), Francesca Neri (Elena), Liberto Rabal (Victor), Angela Molina (Clara), José Sancho (Sancho), Penélope Cruz (Isabelita). Screenplay by Jorge Guerricaechevarria, Ray Loriga and Pedro Almodóvar. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Rating: 18. Running time: 97 minutes.

Pfft. What were you thinking, Pedro? This one’s bizarre, and I mean really bizarre. Not so much what happens, though the story of how a cop who is intentionally paralysed by his coworker’s bullet ends up a champion in wheelchair basketball and marries the women who he was attempting to save from rape at the time he got shot, is far from normal even for Pedro’s standards. Nor is the film inherently strange because of how everyone seems to be fucking one another in a love pentagon of some sort, because that always happens in Almodóvar movies anyway. The bigger issue is that, whilst this produces the occasional beautiful image (no less so than the one included above), it nevertheless seems mildly but completely inappropriately funny in a way that is neither sincerely comedic nor a display of drama. Sometimes I’ve questioned whether it’s just me sensing this tension in Almodóvar films. I’ve wondered if I should put it down to the language barrier and my inability to detect Spanish intent and tone of voice. But then I saw Broken Embraces, and I knew Almodóvar could make a straight-forward depressing film if he wanted, and that there is indeed something odd going on in the rest of his films. Live Flesh is the best, or should I say worst, example of this. We end up caring for his eccentric but distinctively human characters in All About My Mother and other such magical efforts. But this one just feels like a purposeless funny/serious sex fest.

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