Year Released: 2011
Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes
(R, 117 min.)
"What one generation tolerates, the next will abuse." Variation of a John Wesley quotation
Sickness squared! Perversion to the third power! If he were still around, Dante would have to invent another circle of hell for the creators of this pretentious pornography.
Yet, some critics still rave. Austin’s own Mark Savlov literally gushes over Pedro Almodovar’s latest work, calling it “…an elaborate puzzle box of a film that continuously confounds expectations in the grandest of ways.”
“Its narrative architecture is …dazzling,” coos Chris Vognar.
Some critics even thrive on the abuse Almodovar heaps upon them, lauding “…the exhilarating high of having been manipulated by a gifted artist in a diabolically dark mood.” (Rene Rodriquez)
All this reminds me why I started this website in 2005. Here’s what I said back then:
Maybe you’re like me. You feel out of step with the current drumbeats in the movie review band. Some of the films they disdain you enjoy with guilty pleasure, and though you’d never admit it to your intellectual friends, the ones they rave about often leave you either cold, disgusted or both.
A few do get it. Jeff Meyers of Detroits Metro Times says it best: “Not even DePalma, at his sleaziest, or Hitchcock, at his most sexually frustrated, dared to be so unabashedly ugly.” Motown may be having some financial troubles, but they still have their heads on straight.
And ugly it is. But the dysfunctional filth is gilded over with high art and beautiful music by Alberto Iglesias. Not to mention stellar production values, if something like that impresses you. The film centers on a bizarre revenge for a rape, but most sane viewers – an all too rare breed I am now sadly convinced – will feel like they are the real victims here. Sadly at the theater I attended, there was an outbreak of spontaneous applause as the film’s credits rolled.
Is there any hope for humanity? Full throttle spoiler alert here, but how I can spoil a film that is so sordid and rotten already is beyond me.
Antonio Banderas, so handsome it looks as though he has been under the knife himself, plays Dr. Robert Ledgard, a Spanish plastic surgeon obsessed with creating a new type of skin graft that is virtually invulnerable to assault. It all goes back to the tragic death of his wife, horribly disfigured in a fiery car crash some 12 years earlier.
Vera (Elena Anaya), the beauty that lives in the cloistered quarters of his suburban clinic outside Toledo, Spain, is his sole patient. She wears a facial mask that covers almost everything but her eyes; her body is covered in a second skin made of fabric. The Gothic nature here is not the horror revealed in, say, the 1925 classic Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney as the deformed recluse composer. There is no deep intake of breath when our patient takes off her mask. Vera, beneath the mask and the body suit, is almost perfect. There are no external scars; they fester within.
Just like a surgeon carefully taking off gauze bandages, the true nature of what Dr. Ledgard has wrought is revealed ever so slowly. And it is sick enough to disgust even Jerry Springer and the paid perverts who peopled his show. Almodovar, a product of once Catholic Spain, is not content to parade mere mortal sins before us. They must be twisted together, fused, and mutated to reveal nothing less than a Hieronymus Bosch painting in all its grotesque glory.
It’s bad enough that Dr. Ledgard captures the young man responsible for the rape of his daughter, chaining him in a dungeon of sorts, starving him, and spraying him down like animal in a zoo. But as we find out, each detail emerging ever so tortuously in a series of flashbacks, his ultimate revenge is so diabolically convoluted that this primitive abuse seems almost rational.
Okay, I’m going the full Monty in disclosure here, breaking the unwritten film critic code of not giving away the whole plot. To forcefully change the rapist into a female, performing a “vaginaplasty” on an unconscious and unwilling patient is beyond belief, making poor Dr. Frankenstein look almost angelic. To create a facial structure on that poor creature that resembles the face of both his wife and daughter is the next level of insanity and perversion.
So why stop there. You know what the next step is, don’t you? Take a look at the picture above for a little hint, if you are stuck here, folks?
Yes, as the critics pontificate, Almodovar is concerned with sexual identity. I’d say he is hopelessly lost in its morass and is taking us there with him.
I for one, am not willing to go gently into that dark and debauched night.
After starving his captive for days, if not weeks, Dr. Ledgard finally brings him a bowl of plain rice. Little does his captive Vincente know that this signals not a reprieve, but the beginning of a revenge served so cold it is frozen in time.
A revenge so vast that it overwhelms even the avenger.
Our authentic Spanish rice is neither plain nor the herald of a diabolical punishment. Just sit back, enjoy its hearty flavor, and be glad you do not share poor Vincente’s fate.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 green pepper, white pith removed, seeded and thinly sliced
- 2 red peppers, white pith removed, seeded and thinly sliced
- 12 oz. mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- 14 oz. canned peeled tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/2 oz. [1/2 cup] stoned green olives
- I teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 5 oz. [2 cups] cooked rice
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown.
- Add the green and red peppers and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes with the can juice, olives, oregano, basil, salt and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the rice is heated through.
- • Transfer the mixture to a warmed serving dish. Serve immediately, if you are serving it hot.
Recipe Source: ricegourmet.com