There's just something way too right about Pedro Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas teaming up for a bit of perversion, revenge, and madness. Banderas plays a famous if unscrupulous plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard. Early on, in addressing his colleagues, he talks about how our face is our identity. Burn victims don't just need to survive, they need a face that can show expressions, even if you have to take that face off a corpse. He, in fact, has participated in 3 of the 9 face transplants in the world. And now he has invented an artificial skin that is stronger than any human skin--impervious to burns and insects.
Then we see him go home and tend to his patient/captive, Vera (Elena Anaya). He comes bearing a gift of opium, but she has tried to kill herself. We know something is wrong with her, but we don't find out what for quite a while (and when I realized, it was a beautiful Oh-My-God! moment). Little by little, the madness is revealed, triggered by an attack by the housekeeper's son, who is dressed as a tiger for Carnival. We find first that Vera's face is remarkably similar to Robert's late wife. And then we find...another big surprise, which I won't ruin. But it certainly explores some interesting ideas about physical form and identity.
Almodóvar has done a fine job of romanticizing deviant behavior before, for me most memorably in TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! (also happens to be my introduction to Almodóvar). Here he doesn't quite go the romantic route as much as the outrageous route. And I was certainly on board to enjoy the ride.
Running Time: 117
My Total Minutes: 257,016