Picks and Pans Review: Live Flesh
In the 1990s, Spanish director Pedro Almódovar has been moving away from the flamboyant camp melodramas that made his international reputation (Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) toward a more subdued, emotionally richer style. But his stories, including this latest, are still melodramatic pulp fictions. He is trying to distill Coke into burgundy.
Live Flesh, based on a Ruth Rendell novel, tells a complicated yet ludicrous tale of sex and crime that spins (rather slowly) out of an armed confrontation involving an Italian diplomat's daughter (Neri), waiting in her Madrid apartment for a drug dealer; a stupid but handsome young admirer (Liberto Rabal) who enters unannounced and refuses to leave; and finally the cop (Bardem) who arrives to break up their fight. As usual, Almodóvar's performers are sensual to the point of succulent. But only Angelina Molina, as a middle-aged has-been flamenco dancer who falls for Rabal and tries to leave an abusive husband, strikes the right note: farcically, obsessively in love, yet pitiably real. She is over the top even as she sinks into hell. (R)
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