Anyone expecting to see UK crime novelist Ruth Rendell's Live Flesh, a dank story of bad luck, seething envy and, almost incidentally, crime, is in for a shock. Pedro Almodovar has reworked the tale almost beyond recognition, transforming it into candy-colored erotic melodrama. Madrid cops David (Javier Bardem) and Sancho (Jose Sancho) respond to a report of shots fired in a luxury apartment building, and arrive to find beautiful Elena (Francesca Neri) struggling with Victor (Liberto Rabal). They don't know that she's a junkie in a
drug-addled fury and Victor -- a hard-luck jerk, smarting because Elena has cruelly insulted his manhood -- has a gun because he's just taken it away from her. It ends badly, with David shot and Victor on the road to jail. Some years later, Victor sees David on TV, paralyzed from the waist down and a world-class wheelchair basketball player married to the clean-and-sober Elena. Victor's release from prison sends the plot into high gear: He pursues Elena, has a torrid affair with Sancho's wife (Angela Molina) and triggers an explosion of macho rage. Despite their consistently bright, pop-art look, Almodovar's recent films have crept steadily away from the anarchic comedy of WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN in the direction of straightforward melodrama. And while this is the first time he's adapted another writer's material, it's pretty clear that what he saw in
Rendell's novel was a variation on the theme of obsessive love to which he himself has returned, well, obsessively. The result is undeniably gorgeous, but it's all busy surface, beautiful bodies and ironically absurd plot contrivance, occasionally awkward references to political events in '70s
Spain notwithstanding. Featuring Luis Bunuel's brilliantly unsettling CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ on Elena's TV only serves as an unfortunate reminder of how rich apparently trifling films can be.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: Anyone expecting to see UK crime novelist Ruth Rendell's Live Flesh, a dank story of bad luck, seething envy and, almost incidentally, crime, is in for a shock. Pedro Almodovar has reworked the tale almost beyond recognition, transforming it into candy-col… (more)