Review by Michael Jacobson
Bardem, Francesca Neri, Liberto Rabal, Angela Molina, Jose Sancho, Penelope Cruz July 17, 2007
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 101 Minutes
July 17, 2007
Pedro Almodovar may have created an engrossing, absorbing
thriller with Live Flesh, but the film is not without touches of his
sense of humor. Consider how the
movie opens with the birth of the main character on an off-duty city bus in the
middle of Madrid. The
transportation line sees a great public relations opportunity, and gives the
newborn boy a lifetime bus pass.
But the technically difficult shots and expressive use of
darkness and colors indicate that something more serious is at work.
The story forwards to (or essentially, really begins) twenty years later.
The boy, Victor (Rabal) is an adult now, looking for his second
opportunity with a pretty but obviously strung out prostitute, Elena (Neri).
She wrote her number on a little card for him, along with a lipstick
impression, on which Victor longingly practices his kissing.
Elena, however, is in no mood for a second date, as she
nervously awaits the arrival of her next fix.
Circumstances lead to a harmless gun shot and the arrival of two cops,
David (Bardem), and Sancho (Sancho…easy to remember). Events unravel, partly for reasons not explained until later.
As Sancho and Victor scuffle with a gun, David is shot and left
paraplegic. Victor goes to prison
for six years.
When Victor comes out, his mother is dead, David has become
a champion wheelchair basketball player and husband to Elena, who has cleaned up
her act and left her sordid past behind. Both
are surprised and a little worried to see Victor coming back into their lives.
What does he want with them? Another
instance of Almodovar’s humor occurs when David shows up at Victor’s house
to warn him to stay away from them, but both erupt into a spontaneous
celebration over a goal in a soccer game on TV in the middle of an otherwise
Victor has also taken up with Clara (Molina), whom we learn
is the longsuffering wife of Sancho, who turns out to be abusive and a heavy
drinker. This is only the
beginning, and to say more would be to deprive viewers of the pleasure of the
film’s twists and turns.
Almodovar has created a masterful picture, one that
engrosses from start to finish with its look and characters, and one that
manages to reveal its surprises slowly and skillfully along the way.
The cast is first rate, headed by a terrific young actor in Liberto Rabal
as Victor, and recent Oscar nominee Javier Bardem as David.
“Before I met you, I used to look up,” he tells Victor.
“Now, I have to look down all the time.”
Pretty Francesca Neri offers a good turn as Elena, who grows more
beautiful after she cleans up. Sadly,
though, the radiant Penelope Cruz is grossly underused, appearing in the
film’s opening segment only.
Live Flesh is masterful filmmaking,
and deserves to be considered a treat even for those who don’t normally go for
This is a superb anamorphic transfer from MGM.
After a few noticeable specks on the print during the opening credits,
the film settles in for a clean, crisp and expressive visual presentation, with
deep, pure blacks and color integrity throughout.
Images are sharp when they need to be, slightly softer when Almodovar’s
lighting scheme demands it, and detail is strong throughout.
There are no instances of noticeable color bleeding, even in the many
scenes where light images play against darker backgrounds.
All tones are well displayed and natural looking.
Don’t look for grain, haze, shimmer or other signs of compression here;
they don’t exist. Fans of
Almodovar should be delighted.
This is a rich and satisfying 5.1 audio mix, one that uses
both front and rear stages for ambience. The
musical score is orchestrated for surround, offering a pleasant and absorbing
listening experience. Much of the
film is dialogue oriented, and the dialogue is extremely clean and clear, though
mostly forward staged. For a
non-action film, this is a good mix and a terrific audio accompaniment.
Only a trailer.