Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: The Skin I Live In (2011)

Welcome back to Jarv’s Birthday Series. We all know the rules by now: review one film released as near as possible to your birthday. In my case, that’s 23rd August.

The first film: Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. I’ve got a track record with Almodovar, usually hating them, but he’s a critical darling and the films rack up insane ratings everywhere. The premise of this one is particularly unpleasant as well, so this could be rough.

Contains filthy perverts and even filthier spoilers below

Before I start, let me take a few moments to explain why I’m doing it again. There was a small cock up with the old list, and as such I was forced to pick another Birthday film for 2009. The film was the awful Post Grad, but the discussion below the line was far more interesting than the piss poor film warranted. Secondly, I’m running out of closed series, and I don’t want to flood the place with endless vault reviews. So, to make up for it, I thought carefully about another alternative series.

Movie scientists, Spanish style.

There’s one director out there who only a complete nutter would take on every single one of his films: Pedro Almodovar. Placing a sordid mix of gender identity issues, sexual identity issues, perversion, melodrama, and religious confusion on screen, the elderly Spanish Filth merchant has made some of the most critically adored, but intensely unpleasant and difficult to watch films of the last few decades. In my infinite wisdom, as Mrs. Jarv loves them, I’ve seen almost all of the old pervert’s output. So, I thought it would be a piece of piss to rattle off the entire catalogue (which reminds me Just Pillow Talk, I haven’t forgotten, and will be sending you Tie Me Up). When I went to do a bit of cursory research into the films, I noticed that the most recent, The Skin I Live In, had a UK release date of 24th August. I then began to look back, and well, blow me down, loads of them have release dates between 22nd and 24th August. This set me on my way.

I have to be absolutely honest here, and admit that I approached The Skin I Live In with no degree of trepidation. For the most part, Almodovar is at his worst with Antonio Banderas in the film, and the subject matter appeared to be both gruesome and overly sensational. Nevertheless, Mrs. Jarv loves his stuff, and there’s always a promise of some spectacular nudity to help me get through it, so I bravely poured a large whisky, steeled myself for the worst and pressed play.

Does the cagéd bird drop her top on command? Pedro thinks so.

The Skin I Live In is about Dr. Roberto (Antonio Banderas). Roberto is a renowned plastic surgeon who has developed an artificial skin (using something called transgenics) to help heal burn victims. His personal life, on the other hand is a raving mess. He’s got a young woman called Vera (Elena Anaya) imprisoned in his house, monitored 24/7 by CCTV. She’s going slowly insane, and between acts of self-mutilation, wears a full body stocking, practises yoga, and writes on her wall to stave off the impending madness. It’s clear pretty early on that Roberto is obsessed, and the skin is for her- ostensibly to cover up burns. However, he’s named the skin “Gal” after his ex-wife (more on her in a moment), and it is apparent that Vera looks exactly like her. Forbidden to experiment further on his skin, Roberto retreats to his “clinic” in the middle of nowhere to smoke opium with his prisoner, and it’s clear that she’s not well, suffering from a minor dose of Stockholm Syndrome. Mind you, he’s obviously bat shit loopy, so let’s just hope for the best.

Alarm bells were beginning to sound at this point, if I’m entirely honest.

This is when the film starts to go off the rails. At this point, we still don’t know the root cause of Roberto’s psychosis, but Almodovar was never one to shy away from repulsive subject matter, so here we go….

Unpleasant, frankly. Very unpleasant.

The doorbell rings, and it’s a weirdo dressed as a tiger. The oddball, Zeca (Roberto Álamo) is visiting his mother, Roberto’s maid Marilia (Marisa Paredes). He’s a pervert criminal, wanted by the Spanish police for drugs offences, robbery and, it is implied, rape. Then Almodovar bins the implication altogether, and feels a need to show us exactly what a bastard Zeca is, as he ties his mother up, runs up the stars, and viciously rapes Vera.  All the while, he’s talking to her about how nothing’s changed and she still loves the “hot fuck” he’s giving her. Roberto, arriving home in the nick of time, takes a gun and splatters Zeca all over the bedspread.

The Alarm bell that had started ringing is now going like a fucking klaxon.

The next day (bleurgh), Marilia is cleaning up the mess and explaining the history of Zeca and Roberto to Vera while she’s doing it. It turns out that Zeca and Roberto are both her sons (although the doctor doesn’t know this). Zeca began an affair with Roberto’s wife (hence all the foul chat when he was raping her), and when eloping left her to burn to death in the car. Roberto found and rescued her, and kept her hideously deformed mess away from reflections and so forth. One day, when his daughter Norma (Ana Mena) was playing in the garden (helpfully shown to us in flashbacks), Gal caught sight of her reflection and threw herself through the window, with inevitably fatal consequences.

Mrs. Jarv spent about half an hour saying that blonde hair was a wig. I don’t know why it bothered her so much considering what we were watching.

Back in the present day, Vera, for some reason, begins a sexual relationship with Roberto. However, she’s unable to consummate it due to damage “the tiger” had done to her. I’ll just leave it at that, for the minute, but when the twist comes, I guaran-fucking-tee, that you’ll lose your lunch. We then get another helpful flashback to a wedding 6 years ago. Roberto’s daughter Norma is out, for the first time in a long time. It turns out she’s been in therapy and is on a combination of psychoactive drugs to stop her going off the rails. She hooks up with a group of teenagers, including Vicente (Jan Cornet). Roberto loses sight of her, and goes to find her, blundering across a hugely gratuitous teenage orgy. As he’s nearly flattened by a motorbike, he spots her shoes lying on the path close to her casually discarded jumper. Finding Norma unconscious (yes, here we go again), he rouses her only for her to begin screaming like a banshee. Turns out, and I bet this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, Vicente raped her (which Almodovar helpfully lets us see as well later in the film), the results of which are predictable and depressing. Yup, she throws herself out of a window as well.

The alarm now sounds like a doomsday siren.

OK- here we go, this is spoiler time, and it’s viciously and foully unpleasant. Tastefully filmed, thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but as an idea, this one really was plucked from one of the Maquis De Sade’s worst fantasies. Brace yourselves- or just skip the next 2 paragraphs- if you want it to be unspoiled. 

If there’s one thing Pedro can’t stand, it’s an actress with her top on.

Roberto’s mind has cracked as a result of this second tragedy. He stalks Vicente, and discovers him to be a dressmaker in his mother’s shop. Roberto hunts him down and kidnaps his victim before imprisoning him in a cellar. Vicente begins to manifest signs of Stockholm Syndrome in that he thanks Roberto for visiting and so forth, but Roberto has plans, and not very pleasant plans at that. Roberto forges some documents and assembles a specialist medical team who perform, and this is where the film drops into place, a forced sex-change operation on Vicente. We’re then treated to the various stages in Vicente’s transformation into Vera.

Back in the present day and Vera and Roberto’s relationship is developing nicely. Despite trust issues, which Vera seems happy to get over, even saving his perverted ass from blackmail, he’s opened the doors to her, allowing her to go shopping and so forth. Marilia, sensibly, doesn’t trust her a bit, but Roberto pulls rank and orders her to accommodate Vera’s every win. This is a mistake. Their second attempt to consummate the relationship also goes badly (she excuses this as still being due to damage from the tiger), to which he suggests anal sex as a solution. She’s purchased lubricant, but intentionally left it downstairs, and uses this as an excuse to get the gun and waste Roberto and Marilia. Escaping into the night, she returns to her mother’s shop and introduces herself as Vicente. Film ends.


This is hugely satisfying, actually.

The reason I’ve put such a lengthy plot description into this one is that it’s nigh-on impossible to discuss what I’m about to discuss without spoiling to a greater or lesser extent. However, before I do that, I’m just going to talk about the acting for a moment. This could well be the best performance in Banderas’ career. His Roberto is an obviously damaged man, with a clearly fractured psyche, who operates on a combination of drugs and a pure steel will. Furthermore, he’s got no little charisma, and in the more chilling moments of the film, is able to examine his victim with a coldly clinical eye that is genuinely frightening. Banderas is absolutely superb here, riveting, in fact, and it makes me wonder if he’s got a future playing psychotics. Secondly, Anaya is also superb. Vera is a damned difficult role to play, for obvious reasons, and she’s both luminously beautiful and downright captivating on screen. That The Skin I live in didn’t make me puke and was actually enjoyable despite the odds rests a lot on their shoulders. Cornet, who has the hardest part of the three, is also fantastic as the victim of the film, and his delicate, almost effeminate, features are put to good use by Almodovar. In his case, actually, it’s a nigh-on perfect marriage of material and actor.  The only flip side is Paredes. I can’t be arsed to check, but I’m almost certain she’s a Telenovela actress, and it really comes across in the film, even though she does get the worst of the melodramatic dialogue.

Which brings me to the next point. The Skin I Live In is billed as Almodovar’s first attempt at Horror. It’s nothing of the sort, in fact, if you look at the themes running through the film it’s pretty standard for an Almodovar. His movies usually deal with sexual identity and mental illness, and when coupled with the subject matter here, what we actually have is a melodrama. In fact, I’d almost go further than that, and say that what we have here is actually a Telenovela. Look at some of the plot directions: long lost brother who had an affair with the wife returning to wreak havoc, hidden identity of the mother that nobody knows, mentally unbalanced daughter locked away in a home out of sight, ridiculously elaborate revenge, etc etc etc. The Skin I Live In is without a shadow of a doubt the classiest Telenovela that I’ve ever seen.

This is not going to end well for you, Vicente. You really should have stayed off the drugs.

Once the penny drops that we’re watching an outrageously sensational soap opera this actually becomes an enjoyable film. It’s ridiculously contrived and melodramatic, but Almodovar sensibly keeps the majority of the unpleasantness miles away from the screen- with the only real “shock” shot being Gal’s hideously disfigured visage. I do wish he’d kept the rapes off camera as well, as the first one is truly revolting, and the second is deeply disturbing in a different way. Nevertheless, aside from that, there’s a strong element of humour in the film, with some scenes, such as the dildos, being unsettling but, damn it, funny in a black as midnight kind of way. The success here is purely down to the exceptional cast, and so credit where it’s due.

Almodovar also doesn’t hang around. He knows, or at least I hope he does, that the events here are absolutely absurd, and so the film blazes along at real speed. He doesn’t allow himself the luxury of wallowing in the more “dramatic” scenes such as Roberto seeing Norma in the asylum, instead it’s put out in a perfunctory style before he moves on to the next insane moment. Coupled with the frankly exquisite cinematography on display (this is a beautiful film), and I have to note that The Skin I Live in is a gorgeous, fast paced movie.

This image should not have been on the UK/ International poster. It’s the twist in the fucking movie, for Christ’s sake, so blowing it in marketing is frankly ridiculous. Particularly when you look at that Spanish poster I used for the title.

Nevertheless, the central premise of the film as revealed in the second half is so nauseatingly unpleasant that it is very difficult to get past. I find myself conflicted here, because while Anaya is absolutely stunning, and sports a magnificent rack that the old filth merchant makes her get out at pretty much every opportunity, I found myself struggling to hold in the vomit when Banderas is getting down and dirty with her. To be fair, the transformation sequence takes place over years, and Roberto is portrayed consistently as a mentally ill, so I’m being all judgemental and whatnot for no really acceptable reason, but I will still bet that this is the reaction Almodovar was going for.

Overall, I’m going to go high on this one. It’s clearly a good film, and probably in the top 3 Almodovar’s that I’ve ever seen. It is, which is highly unusual for him, an enjoyable movie, and despite the subject matter strangely restrained. The plot is flaming ridiculous, but the performances are so good, and it’s so good-looking that I’m going to give it 2 and a half dirty old gits out of a possible 4. I suspect that my problems with it are more down to me than the film itself, and as I’ve got a strong suspicion that this was intentional, I can’t ignore it.

A surprisingly good film for 2011, and in less classy hands this could have been utterly repellent. I’m not sure I recommend it, though.

Until next time,


The Full List for the Birthday Series Redux:

  • 2011- The Skin I Live In (2.5 out of 4)
  • 2010- The Last Exorcism
  • 2009- Post Grad (1 out of 4)
  • 2008- The House Bunny
  • 2007- Knocked Up
  • 2006- Volver
  • 2005- Red Eye
  • 2004- Dead Clowns
  • 2003- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
  • 2002- Talk to Her
  • 2001- Jeeper’s Creepers
  • 2000- Gossip
  • 1999- All About My Mother
  • 1998- The X-Files
  • 1997- Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
  • 1996- The Last Supper
  • 1995- The Usual Suspects
  • 1994- The Color of Night
  • 1993- Surf Ninjas
  • 1992- The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
  • 1991- Pump Up the Volume
  • 1990- Wild at Heart
  • 1989- Bull Durham
  • 1988- Crossing Delancey
  • 1987- The Big Easy
  • 1986- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
  • 1985- Better off Dead
  • 1984- Oxford Blues
  • 1983- MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
  • 1982- The Thing
  • 1981- Honky Tonk Freeway
  • 1980- Schock
  • 1979- Rich Kids
  • 1978- Coma

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

90 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: The Skin I Live In (2011)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Underway part 2.

    Apologies for the length of this, but I could easily have doubled it. Not looking forward to the next Almodovar.

    I really have matured, now I look at this. Because not so long ago, I’d have stuffed this full of naked boobs and just gone “hur hur hur” for 1000 words interspersed with the odd “this is minging”.

    Mind you, that would have been shorter and probably more entertaining.

    • Just Pillow Talk says :

      I know you rated it highly, but I could not but help to involunatarily twitch while reading your review. Definitely classic Almodovar, and that gives me flashbacks, disturbing flashbacks. Ugh.

      And please…keep on forgetting to said me that movie. This review has disturbed me enough.

      • Just Pillow Talk says :

        send me that movie.

        See? I’m already filled with dread just talking about another Almodovar movie!

      • Jarv says :

        It’s also Banderas and Almodovar.

      • Jarv says :

        You might make it through this one. It’s honestly so melodramatic that it flashes by- not like All About My Mother which stays around farting tapas in your direction.

      • Just Pillow Talk says :

        I dunno…

        I don’t understand why he needed to film the rape scenes? From what you are saying, everything else is filmed pretty well, the intent and atmosphere are clearly present, so why actually film the events? The subject matter punches the audience in the gonads anyway.

      • Jarv says :

        The first one is justifiable- and that’s the explicit one. It’s to establish Vera as a proper functioning sexual woman- because she’s not at all beforehand- almost a dressmakers doll. Furthermore, it’s is porthole into the the past and the mystery of Roberto’s wife.

        The second one is strange, because it’s on camera, and you see the girl’s tits (this is Almodovar after all), and there’s clear movement to penetrate, but it’s almost filmed with just her face on camera. This may make it worse, actually.

        We actually do not need to see that one at all.

        The other thing that’s strange is that when Banderas or Zeca or Vicente are kissing breasts they’re almost frantic, trying to swallow them whole. It’s very disconcerting.

      • Jarv says :

        Also, regarding rape, it’s bad, and it is explicit, but it’s nowhere near as virulently unpleasant as the quite savage rape in something like Tyrannosaur. The fact he’s dressed as a tiger (unsubtle predator metaphor) does make it slightly absurd rather than the horrendously realistic rape/ sodomisation in the British film.

        One to ponder. In fact, that whole scene is something to ponder, because Almodovar makes choices such as Banderas watching on the monitor for a moment too long that are just strange.

  2. Bartleby says :

    you have rated–I wont say liked–this one more than me. It’s well filmed, suitably gothic, etc, but there’s a real crutch of Almodovar leaning on his lurid twists and depravity to give the film some sense of presence. The acting is fine, filmmaking too, but this is a slight and tedious affair until he adds the diabolical elements and they don’t properly add up. I think of it as one more ’emperor has no clothes.’

    Jarv, you really need to see Eyes Without a Face to see how these elements–sans the distressing stuff and pervo things you mention here–can be utilized to make a great film.

    I’d go two changs at most for this, and that’s just from an objective perspective. It’s icky enough I don’t care much for it.

    • Jarv says :

      I genuinely thought that the three leads were superb, and once I realised what I was watching I relaxed. I do wonder if I haven’t overrated it because of a combination of relief that it wasn’t utterly repugnant and that the performances were that good.

      It’s very much Almodovar by numbers, actually.

      I watched Julia’s Eyes recently, and I have to say that I think this was better.

      • Jarv says :

        Also, and this is worth noting for a later date,

        All his films bar Talk to Her have a feeling of slightness to them- and it’s partially because at some point a major character stops and talks for a few minutes literally expositing need to know information that he couldn’t get across otherwise.

        However, in this case, because it’s the most clear Telenovela he’s made (aside from, maybe, All About My Mother) it’s not as annoying. He’s very much a style over substance director in my experience.

        He’s also a grimy old pervert. Hence the rating.

      • Bartleby says :

        I preferred Julias Eyes, which was also rote, but more pulpy fun than this. That’s really the problem, Almodovar is dabbling in a genre that is designed to be entertaining, throwaway pulp abnd he’s instead made a distractingly twisted, depressing and gleefully ill movie that I doubt many will get any real enjoyment from, outside of admiration at the performances, which are good.

      • Jarv says :

        Horror isn’t Almodovar’s genre. I totally agree. He’s essentially a melodrama director with a perverted twist. Skin has a few things going for it, but mostly Banderas, Anaya and Cornet.

        Julia’s eyes suffers badly in the second half of the film, and the finale is cretinous.

      • Bartleby says :

        true. it should be noted Im not a big almodovar fan. I think the diff with something like talk to her, he’s got some multiple themes and dramatic motivation running under that one. It’s very stylistically superficial but it gets by on the emotions underneath the characters.

        Here the characters are easily guessed rotten apples who have basically all lost their minds to some degree, so it’s pointless to try and empathize or understand them.

      • Jarv says :

        Talk to Her and Bad Education are comfortably his two best films. The latter deals with a subject very, very dear to him, and he treats it with a surprising amount of respect. The former has an emotional core that isn’t artificial that I find missing or forced in a lot of his films.

        His worst films are the more lurid ones- Matador, Tie me Up, Live Flesh, All About My Mother, are basically porno Telenovelas complete with idiotic twists, repellent characters and a large helping of boredom and absurdity.

        Here he’s matured and has taken his more revolting subject matter and by his standards been restrained. I dread to think what the Almodovar who made Tie me Up would have done with this, but I suspect we’d need a bucket.

        He’s helped by the fucking SENSATIONAL turn from Banderas, but more importantly from Anaya. He’s normally not good with actresses, basically seeing them as life support systems for tits, but this time out Anaya blew me away. It’s a stupendous turn from her.

        Also, restraining his blatant love for Banderas, probably because he’s getting a bit old for Pedro’s tastes now (and I’m not joking here) seems to have allowed him a freedom to actually perform rather than being a puppet for the old guy to push around.

  3. Bartleby says :

    Also, to be fair to tyrannosaur, the ‘similar’ scene in that film is morally responsible—it depicts savagery for a real thematic and dramatic purpose without a hint of sensuality—and it isn’t remotely titilating or exploitative, whereas I can’t argue the same for Almodovar’s scenes. You can make the case that at least the flashback one is thematically necessary, but there’s no real point to anything that happens other than to satisfy a smug filmmakers perversions. He may dress them up with cinematic class, but it doesn’t make them anything different. In Tyrannosaur, the scene is imperative to the brutal impact of the film, which is to be fair, dressed up with at least a faint sense of hope. I got something out of Tyrannosaur, but only got a strong desire to wash my mind with bleach after Skin.

    • Jarv says :


      The rape in Tyrannosaur did not have to be front and centre the way it was, and it’s fucking repugnant in its detail as well: spitting on his hand for lube for example. I’ll come to why, particularly given what happens with the plot of that film, when I review it.

      Skin is sensationalised, and fairly farcical, but the first is totally necessary to the plot of the film. The second, I’m not so sure about, in fact, I can make a good case for excising it from the film.

      Tyrannosaur is a much better film than this though- in fact, it’s a superb movie that I’m approving, but the “impact” generated by the rape is seriously unnecessary.

      • Droid says :

        I find that most scenes depicting onscreen rape are uneccessary. The only one that I think was necessary that springs to mind was The Accused, because that was intentionally asking the audience to think about the question that the rest of the film tried to answer. Was she, in any way, responsible for what happened to her?

      • Droid says :

        The most cretinous depiction of rape I’ve seen is Last House on the Left. The director pretty much ogles her with the camera. And it goes on for about 10 fucking minutes. It’s vile.

      • Jarv says :

        Baise Moi.

        Revolting, and I think the penetration wasn’t faked.

      • Droid says :

        Haven’t seen it, and don’t intend to.

      • Jarv says :

        Don’t. That’s probably the most gratuitous rape ever filmed. Horrible.

      • Droid says :

        What about that stupid one man killing machine movie I watched at your place. The one with him hiding up a tree, about 4 feet off the ground. What the hell was it called? That had a totally unecessary rape in it, didn’t it?

      • Jarv says :

        Deadly Prey?

        That takes place off camera mostly, thankfully. Yes, but that one’s also unnecessary.

      • Jarv says :

        The thing here is that the question of her sexual identity is totally integral to the film. In fact, the twist hinges on it. She’s not a “woman” before the rape, and it’s the catalyst to her relationship with Banderas starting. Also there’s a nasty thread of voyeurism flailing away in this film (she obsesses about the cameras) and it’s expanded on here. The second rape, actually, is totally extraneous.

        Would I have filmed the first rape the same way? No. I’d have completely truncated it, and I certainly would NOT have shown it on the CCTV monitors.

      • Droid says :

        I may have been unclear. I don’t have an outright objection to a film depicting a rape, but I feel that a lot of it can be implied. Kind of like two characters making love in an old movie, where the camera pans off the characters to the open window with the blinds blowing in the wind, and then transitions to afterwards, where the characters are laying in bed smoking. Only rapier.

        Basically I don’t feel that the nitty gritty of rape, such as the “lubing up” bit in Tyrannosaur you mentioned, is really necessary.

      • Bartleby says :

        Im think there’s good reason for tyrannosaur to be as it was, and I’ll get into that below, but my point is comparing the two scenes to point out that Skin is less explicit isn’t exactly fair, as the reason it creeps us out is due more to Almodovar’s feelings towards it and how it sits in the story, as well as its unecessary inclusion as on-screen action.

        Given where tyrannosaur leads, and what Mullan finds two-thirds through the film, I’m not sure we were gonna understand any other way. There’s something the film is saying about domestic abuse in several of these scenes–where they stem from and where they go–and it’s an angry film, it wants you to see this isnt some lifetime channel black-eye over burned toast thing. It made me sick, but it was supposed to. That’s my point. It needn’t be so brutal, but it’s a film that is seriously trying to express rage over real world behavior, and it wants to expose that. You can’t tell me that the scene exists for any sort of titilation. It exists to show us that a guy we thought was a relatively fine bloke a few scenes before is an absolute monster, but not in his own mind.

        It’s a might too much, but I also think that’s the point. Tyrannosaur is the kind of movie that wants to stir an anger that you aren’t just going to put down when the movie ends, for better or worse.

      • Jarv says :

        I suppose so, but the point was made eloquently earlier in the film.

        I’m actually wondering if it wasn’t cut for US audiences, because our first introduction to the husband is when he does something utterly despicable, and he’s a coiled serpent on screen.

        Where Almodovar is on sticky ground is that the Rape exists for a few purposes, one of which is to blatantly service the plot, and provide an excuse for Banderas and Anaya not to fuck. That’s wrong in my opinion- she doesn’t need a reason not to fuck him, because she’s got an absolute belter.

        Furthermore, there’s almost a lascivious streak to the scene and much of it is utterly unecessary. We don’t need to see him pounding his hips up and down, we certainly don’t need the shit that comes out of his mouth.

        The way to do it, and to make it acceptable, would be to keep the intro to it intact, but then he throws her on the bed and starts shedding the tiger costume.

        Cut to mother looking at the screens, but for christ’s sake show it from the Screen’s POV.

        Roberto enters, sees her, walks to her to free her, the screen catches his eye. He notices it as well.

        He gets the gun, goes upstairs, she says her piece about “killing them both”. He goes in to the room, shot from POV of bed, and watches for a few seconds before executing the scumbag. He then kicks the body off her, and picks her up crying, taking her out of the room.

        Intent and purpose of the scene the same, white knight established (we don’t know he’s nuts at this point), her sexuality as female fully established.

        Less being more.

      • Bartleby says :

        also, in both of these movies…these aren’t scenes like Irreversible, for anyone who is reading this without having seen the films. They are mostly well-handled, but Im like Droid–I dont want to see them included at all, unless there is a purpose.

        I’d say there is in tyrannosaur as it is necessary to understand and comprehend as fully as we need to, the actions later in the story.

      • Jarv says :

        I’d say there is in tyrannosaur as it is necessary to understand and comprehend as fully as we need to, the actions later in the story.

        I absolutely do not agree with this. You can see it coming from a mile away, in fact, you can see it coming from his first remark to her in the film.

        It’s a staggering portrayal of Battered Wife Syndrome (this, incidentally, is part of my other complaint about it) and the groundwork has been set. What he’s done with the rape is as you say- it’s the extra push Bruce Banner needs to Hulk Out

      • Bartleby says :

        the lubing up bit is reprehensible, but it’s really part of an unbroken attack, hence the point. I could be wrong, but you aren’t even seeing any skin, just a really violent, reprehensible attack on another person. Tyrannosaur is like that with every act of violence–save one, which is interesting in its exclusion–showing it as burts of rage and attack.

        Tyrannosaur shows the violence as an attack…as gross as it is the ‘lube’ moment just drives home the fact it’s an unprovoked, non-premeditated and totally brutal atack on someone he alledges to ‘love’.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s not. It’s part of a pattern of events.

        Tell you what, I’m postponing this until tomorrow, because if I get into it here, then I’m going to blow the crux of the review.

        Tyrannosaur fits in a very British tradition including things like Nil by Mouth, and deals with much of the same subject matter.

      • Bartleby says :

        I agree about your cuts regarding Skin. I think my issue is that the whole story feels like a crutch.

      • Jarv says :

        The really problematic one is the second. If anything this is more important to the film, because this is the trigger for the revenge.

        However, it’s more of a date rape scenario than the first. Where this one goes wrong is the skin on display, and I would argue that he knows it because he has Vicente dress the character afterwards. I suppose this is an act of contrition- which is clearly what motivates him for the second half of the film, but you could cut the whole god damned scene as the point has already been made when Roberto finds her and she starts screaming. We do not need ANOTHER flashback to this incident laying out the gruesome detail.

      • Bartleby says :

        Jarv, Tyrannsaur in my mind is not a film of ‘types’ or ‘lessons’, even though it has a social issue on its own mind. We see it coming, yes, but we don’t feel those character’s actions as deeply until we see just what’s happening to her. To have that scene is to also tie it back into Mullan’s actions. He’s not off the hook just because his slow-burn abuse was mostly flashes of rage and a long-gestating brow-beating of his family. This is a horror show, and its making the point–typically you see the black eyes and the bruises and the meek flinching–but there’s something where all this comes from.

        I’ve personally seen situations that have produced my own internal anger towards abuse against women so I think Tyrannosaur’s tapping into that in a realistic way was, for me, justified.

      • Jarv says :

        Right, I know where you’re going for this, but the cycle of abuse is well established, and I would argue that there are cuts that you can make to the scene that leave you in no doubt as to what is about to happen, but furthermore would disguise the ending better.


        We first see him when he pisses on her when he thinks she’s asleep. She then meets him the next morning, and he subjects her to lurid profanity. It’s clear he’s a bully and a sexual sadist, into demeaning her.

        The next time, is when he slaps fuck out of her for being out for an afternoon. This is what prompts her to go out that evening. He then picks her up, takes her back and picks her up by her neck, prompting her “cowardly little cock” outburst. She goes upstairs and we get full on battered wife syndrome shock.

        He then comes up, knocks her down, forces her clothes off and strips his clothes off before gobbing on his hand to lube her up to rape her. Which we get to see while he’s mashing her face into the ground. The scene ends with a lengthy close up on her face.

        END SPOILER.

        Now, an equally effective scene is to cut as he unbuckles his belt. Next scene opens with her walking out of the house battered to hell.

      • Bartleby says :

        I meant the scene itself is an unbroken attack, but its absolutely part of a pattern that was well established until that point. What Tyrannosaur is putting a finger on though, in nearly every scene, is escalation.

        Ok, wow, I forgot about all of those scenes—not sure I even saw the pissing—and it basically reiterates what I mean; there’s no simple thematic reason to show those events, unless your film is about expressing real anger about this. If you can connect to that anger you look at those scenes and don’t think ‘oh, that’s too much’ because you, to some degree, already know and are probably thinking ‘that’s exactly how it effing it is, it never ends until you end it, and every day is one more damn thing until you are either dead or got-the-hell-up-out-of-there’. We get that with the cuts intact you suggested, but there’s a deeper rage that gets cultivated when we see it in full.

        So, in part, I agree. For simple art or storytelling, it isn’t necessary. I just think Tyrannosaur had a bone to pick, and in my mind it was a bone that needed picking. I’d say it wasn’t as bas as Nil By Mouth for misery porn, but Im not sure I’ve seen an angrier Brit domestic troubles pic that also had some rays of hope circling it. But, I concede, you are largely right about it, although I stop at unnecessary. It’s not necessary to the story, but I think it is necessary to expressing exactly what was bubbling up in Mullan’s mind.

      • Jarv says :

        Yes, but the scene itself isn’t an unbroken attack.

        I get what you’re saying about the anger- and the film reeks of pure contained rage.

        The scene, though, is structured in that it as already finished as she’s “won”- but she’s showing full battered wife syndrome. He then comes back, and it’s an impact shock, because he just shows up at the door and BANG lays her clean out.

        It isn’t like she was trying to escape, she’d effectively won the confrontation.

        I’ll save the rest of this for the review.

        Damn it, I’ve overrated TSILI by 1/2. I’ll lucas it tonight.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh, fuck it, I’ll do it now.

        You know, I genuinely thought the chat below this review was going to be about the premise of this film and perverts. Still, goes to show what I know.

      • Jarv says :



        2.5 out of 4.

      • Bartleby says :

        yea,if you want we can port these comments over to the tyrannosaur thread when you post it. I didnt intend to go on so about it. That shock you mention though is part of the anger, you don’t ‘win’ in this situation unless drastic measures are taken. In Tyrannosaur Im not sickened by Mullan and his direction, Im sickened by the man commiting these actions. In Skin, I just kept thinking, Almodovar you big ol perv!

      • Jarv says :

        It was Considine, wasn’t it? Mullan is the actor.

      • Bartleby says :

        yea, my mistake..considine…he;s emerging as a damn fine filmmaker.

      • Jarv says :

        As a debut film, I think it’s up there with London to Brighton and Down Terrace. We’ll see where he goes with his second film, hopefully it’s more Kill List than that shit The Cottage.

      • Jarv says :

        Actually, I think to rate those three I’d go:

        London to Brighton> Tyrannosaur> Down Terrace.

        That’s an extremely good, but extremely depressing trilogy.

      • Droid says :

        Don’t really feel compelled to see any of them really. One day, maybe. Emphasis on the ‘maybe’.

      • Jarv says :

        Down Terrace is the easiest to watch, but probably the most miserable.

        Being as the other 2 are about domestic violence and child abuse, low level gangsters are like the tellytubbies in comparison.

        If I were to recommend one, then it’s London to Brighton, which I would consider giving a maximum to. I wouldn’t in the end, because it’s just too fucking unpleasant, but it’s superb.

      • Bartleby says :

        oh, I’ve got a stormer for your made in britain series: Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, 1980, 1983.

      • Droid says :

        Is that the miniseries? That’s meant to be good isn’t it?

      • Bartleby says :

        It is yea, but it’s really three separate films more than a real miniseries. Meaning you can watch each one separately and it’s a self contained story, but they do form an overall whole. I should have rated it as the best of 2010, but some affliction took my mind and I did King’s Speech instead. Red Riding is more deserving.

      • Jarv says :


        Yes, some kind of epic brainfart.

      • Bartleby says :

        I wouldnt call it epic… afterall I still really like the flm and rate it more highly than most here, but it’s about four spaces too high, part of that the unfortunate result of making a list the day after I saw it and catching Kings Speech at a great theater with presenters, etc and having watched red riding at home on my laptop and straining to hear actual words through the thick mire of accents. Still my fault entirely, but now I try to give time between my decisions when putting together best of lists…This year was easy for the top spots because on the horror list and the proper top ten, the winning films were miles ahead in my mind. Kill List and Tree of Life respectively. I’ve no remorse in rating those.

      • Droid says :

        That was a bit of a brainfart that decision, but hey ho. We all make mistakes.

      • Jarv says :

        I missed it for some reason. I was thinking about GBH and Our Friends in the North for that if I was going to do TV.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s the thing. When the tiger rape happens (without hat), I was thinking “fucking typical, he can’t help himself”.

        I know what it sounds like on paper, but this really isn’t a rapey film. It’s not something that Beaks will ever get his rocks off over. It’s a perverted film, and it’s sure as hell twisted, but the rape isn’t what stuck with me.

        The irony is, I suppose, that what happens to Vicente is the ultimate rape- which certainly has repercussions for the earlier/ later event.

      • Jarv says :

        And depressingly, out top search today is…

        Alien Rape.

      • Bartleby says :

        yea, sorry to swtich the script to tyrannosaur…my only point is really the events in both films aren’t exactly comparable.

        I’m also bringing my own baggage to Tyrannosaur, so it’s doubtful we are going to agree on that scene. Look forward to your review though. Mullan was tremendous in it.

  4. Droid says :

    Speaking of rape, Jonah, how are your eyeballs after Battleshit? Used and abused?

    Did you at least have some fun with the goofiness?

    • Bartleby says :

      thank god for asking about that Droid…I was starting to feel seriously bummed,

      Battleship is gloriously ridiculous and does take awhile to get going, but it’s a nice slice of summer fun, which I wasn’t expecting. I greatly prefer Avengers personally, because the characters were just a bit too wafer-thin here, but I did enjoy it. More on that latter. I think I have a chance to interview Berg on it actually, so that should be interesting. I liked it better than his recent movies, although I like him in general as a filmmaker.

      • Droid says :

        Good, good. Apart from Very Bad Things I like Berg. The Kingdom wasn’t that good, but it was watchable. The first half of Hancock was good, pity about the second. And I really like The Rundown and Friday Night Lights is excellent.

      • Bartleby says :

        Rundown and Friday Night Lights are the ones I like. I abhor Very Bad Things but I write that off from his resume, as he’s not made anything similar since.

      • Jarv says :

        Very Bad Things is a reprehensibly awful film.

        TSILI>>>> VBT.


      • Droid says :

        I remember I was on a date when I saw VBT. For some reason we both thought the other person was enjoying it, so we sat through it. We found out afterwards that we both would’ve walked about after 30 minutes.

      • Jarv says :


        I did that with In the Name of the Father. We both wanted to walk out, but thought the other was enjoying it.

      • Droid says :

        hehe It was only like our third date, and she was hot, so I didn’t want to risk offending her.

      • Jarv says :

        Funny what you’ll sit through when you think there’s some payout at the end.

      • Droid says :

        I don’t necessarily think BS is better than TA. I’d rate them the same chang rating. But I’d watch BS over TA because I had more fun with it. I seriously laughed for a good minute towards the end when ACDC came on. It’s lighthearted and goofy, and that appeals to my sensibilities.

      • Bartleby says :

        We need more light-hearted and goofy things that are also actually decent. For me Battleship was better than all the Transformer movies, including the first one which I mostly enjoyed. I feel like it had a better sense of what it was trying to be…it’s not a house divided against itself. It says ‘Im big, dumb, light and fun’ and so it is.

      • Jarv says :

        Better than Transformers? Not a particularly great measure for me, that.

      • Bartleby says :

        I know, but I actually enjoyed the first one–minus some speedbumps that have been well documented. And i mention it because both have the same goal. Battleship achieves it with a sense of relaxed dopiness. It’s easier to just sit back and enjoy because there’s little pandering humor and the fx scenes are actually entertianing instead of incomprehensible.

      • Droid says :

        You know I like Transformers #1, and I can confirm that Battleshit is better. The main reason is that it’s not so scattershot, trying to stuff superfluous comedy cameo characters into the film.

  5. Bartleby says :

    no, it isnt an extremely graphic film, Skin, but it’s a really depraved twisted one that tries to cover that with this sort of classical old-school film style. It just didnt work for me. I didnt think he earned the right to use some of this imagery for this story.

    • Jarv says :

      I honestly think that Almodovar as a rule just isn’t for me. I know Spaniards love him, but he’s well, a dirty old pervert.

      I think he’s sort of a national treasure in Spain.

      • Bartleby says :

        amongst critics too. Im more to your way of thinking about him.

      • Jarv says :

        I do, however, have a sneaking kind of like towards anyone that tells Penelope Cruz that if she wants to come back to Spain with her tail between her legs having failed in America, then he’s going to make her take her clothes off if she wants to be in his film.

        Bradshaw’s review of it is unbelievable. I didn’t watch this film.


        When I first saw this in Cannes earlier this year, its resemblances to Hitchcock, Franju and Buñuel were apparent.

        Not to me they fucking weren’t.

        Vera reads widely in the upstairs bedroom-jail-cell in Ledgard’s house, displaying great taste, being evidently an admirer of Alice Munro.

        No. She doesn’t. She practices Yoga, makes dolls, and draws on the wall. She sends books back.

        A second viewing, in fact, frees the viewer from the task of untangling the ridiculous plot, and allows you just to savour the extraordinary texture of this film: the colours and surfaces contrived by Almodóvar with cinematographer José Luis Alcaine and art director Carlos Bodelón are delectable. The most casual scene or establishing shot looks as if it has been hand-painted in the subtlest detail. This is epitomised by Vera’s remarkable ersatz skin, or super-skin. Did Almodóvar varnish it digitally? It is rich, creamy, without the pink quality of normal flesh, more pale ochre; it bears the same relationship to skin as AstroTurf does to grass.

        I don’t know what this means.

        That tissue gives a gorgeous caress.

        Oh, fuck off.

      • Jarv says :


        This isn’t a bad film, but it’s nowhere near what Bradshaw is waffling on about.

      • Bartleby says :

        ‘it’s resemblances to hitchcock, bunuel and franju are apparent.’
        no, bradsy, you mean transparent. Yes, he visually references every one of those directors–Franju is the eyes without a face guy–but that’s just it, he visually references them and moves on. Anyone can do that, right Tarantino?

      • Jarv says :

        He returns to Hitch later in the review as well comparing Banderas’ performance to Grant. I have honestly not the first fucking idea what he’s talking about.

        The mask thing is the Franju reference, isn’t it? I’ve no idea what the Bunuel one is.

      • Bartleby says :

        slicing, the tiger, those flourishes of surrealism that pop up mostly, the distorted close-ups–it’s a stretch, but it’s there, barely.

      • Jarv says :

        The cutting herself in the first scenes? Gotcha.

        Totally missed that. That’s like listening to Bon Jovi and saying you can see the Mozart influence there.

      • Bartleby says :

        haha… yea, but its bradshaw…not nearly enough beds, Tintin, not nearly enough..

      • Jarv says :

        Incidentally, on the Tiger Costume- I strongly disliked Almodovar using it. In a way, it almost makes the violence coming cartoonish, when it should be grotesque. You’ve got Tony the Tiger dry humping a chick in a bodystocking while talking all sorts of drivel.

        Not a good choice.

        It’s details like this that mean I could easily have gone to about 4000 words. There’s a lot to look at here for such a gleefully nasty superficial film.

      • Jarv says :

        Bradshaw really is a cockend. Frankly.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    Almadovar, not for me.

    Far too professional, that review. I’m thinking of giving up and going back to unearthing some more alien rape movies…

    Nice one.

  7. Xiphos0311 says :


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