Antonio Banderas returned to the gifted hands of his mentor, writer/director Pedro Almodóvar, in this clinically elegant horror pic, a twisty & twisted transgender fable of regeneration & revenge. And if that sounds like a mouthful, so’s the pic. Banderas, looking gravely handsome, does his best work in some time as a brilliant, slightly mad medical research doctor (think Moreau or Frankenstein), who fine tunes his skills at cosmetic reconstruction for personal ends. Almodóvar juggles a few more storylines than needed, but counters possible confusion with a slow narrative fuse and a series of ultra-stylish visuals that glide us past the story’s improbabilities & goofy OTT gore factor. (It’s like a Charles Saatchi wet dream.) And while this approach succeeds in damping down unintended giggles & incredulity, it also makes things a little dull between surprise reversals & delayed action. Special kudos to Alberto Iglesias whose score is like the bastard child of Philip Glass & Miklos Rozsa.
DOUBLE-BILL: Too many references to chart in here, from Dumas & Hugo to Universal Horror Classics. But the main artery of inspiration is undoubtedly Georges Franju’s poetic horror classic LES YEUX SANS VISAGE/EYES WITHOUT A FACE/’60.