In My Skin

In an age when movies have all but lost their power to shock, screenwriter and first-time director Marina de Van manages something extraordinary: a truly trangressive film as unsettling as it is psychologically acute. The tired axiom that you are what you eat takes on deeper meaning in the case of Esther (de Van, in an uncanny performance), an ambitious...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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In an age when movies have all but lost their power to shock, screenwriter and first-time director Marina de Van manages something extraordinary: a truly trangressive film as unsettling as it is psychologically acute. The tired axiom that you are what you eat takes on deeper meaning in the case of Esther (de Van, in an uncanny performance), an ambitious analyst for a Paris research firm, who attempts to bridge the ever-widening gap between her body and her sense of self by mutilating and eventually consuming her flesh. Esther's obsession is triggered one night at a party when, wandering about the grounds in the dark, she trips and falls. Esther doesn't realize until much later that she's not only torn her trousers, but her leg as well. She finally goes to an emergency room but, troubled by her complete obliviousness to the physical damage yet strangely fascinated by the way her skin has torn away to reveal a more profound aspect of herself, later slips into a storeroom at her sterile, stifling office and gouges at her half-healed leg with a metal hinge. This impulsive act of self-mutilation offers quick relief from her increasing dissociation, but after admitting what she's done to her boyfriend, Vincent (Laurent Lucas), and coworker, Sandrine (Lea Drucker), Esther promises to never do it again. Esther's mania takes a turn for the worse when she awakes one morning to find one arm has fallen completely asleep. That night, during an important business dinner, a tipsy Esther imagines that her arm has detached itself from her body, and she panics. Checking herself into a hotel room, Esther gives into her compulsion to consume her now fully objectified body, and begins to tear away pieces of her skin with her teeth in an erotic, ecstatic act of autophagy — self-cannibalism. Naturally, this film is not for the squeamish: While de Van's expert technique, particularly her use of split-screen during the film's mesmerizing climax, leaves the worst of things to the imagination, Dominique Collandant's special-effects makeup is nauseatingly realistic; for once, the blood really looks like blood. But for all its shock value, the film is far from an exploitative exercise in gross-out. While it wisely stops short of offering any simple answers to what's happening to Esther and why, the film explores serious issues of eroticism, control and women's relationships to their own bodies, and should be seen by anyone whose stomach is strong enough to withstand it.

MIXED-ISH - In "mixed-ish," Rainbow Johnson recounts her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the '80s and the constant dilemmas they had to face over whether to assimilate or stay true to themselves. Bow's parents Paul and Alicia decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they're perceived as neither black nor white. This family's experiences illuminate the challenges of finding one's own identity when the rest of the world can't decide where you belong. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
MYKAL-MICHELLE HARRIS, ARICA HIMMEL, ETHAN WILLIAM CHILDRESS

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