Movie Magazine International

Live Flesh

Spain - 1998

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

'Live Flesh,' the latest film from director Pedro Almodovar, is an engaging story of five people whose lives are hopelessly intertwined.

The film, set in Madrid, begins with a prostitute in heavy labor. Assisted by her comical Madame, she gives birth to an impatient baby boy on a city bus. She calls him Victor. The city fathers are charmed and give him a bus pass, good for forever. Victor begins his 'lifetime on wheels.'

Twenty years later, he is a young man, now impatient to learn the art of love. An ill-fated rendezvous with a mean, drugged-out woman named Elena leaves Victor believing he's on his way to becoming the greatest lover in the world.

But nothing ever comes easy to Victor and when he seemingly causes a brave policeman to become a paraplegic, he faces six years in prison. Victor busies himself in the big house earning his teaching credentials and simmering hatred for David, the policeman, who has become a national basketball hero in the ParaOlympics, and for Elena, who cleaned up her act and became the devoted wife of David.

At 26, Victor is free again. While visiting the grave of his mother, he spots Elena at her own father's funeral. He then goes home with a woman named Clara, who willingly teaches him what it takes to satisfy a woman. Both meetings are dangerously fortuitous.

The brisk pace of 'Live Flesh' is refreshing. The film never dawdles and plot points develop right up to the credits. Almodovar's approach to these tortured characters is done with love and gentle humor. Both he and the music score spare us the Hollywood hit-over-the-head style that has become so predictable. Not everything was explained in convenient monologues; it's always nice to be given credit for intelligence.

'Live Flesh,' which is shown in sub-titles, is one of the most earthy, gutsy little films to come along in awhile. Rarely, if ever, do you see a wheelchair-bound character in a film exude so much sensuality and style. Not only that but all the logistics of life in a chair, such as getting in and out of a car alone, are demonstrated without the slightest trace of pity.

Perhaps it is a Spanish trait, but none of the characters seem to have a knack for subtlety. All-out candor is the only way as each one boldly states their desires with overwhelming frankness. As David observes to Elena one day after she calmly discloses her affair of the night before, 'You are offensively honest.'

© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 1/28/98

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