Monday Movie: Live Flesh
1997’s Live Flesh is not often counted among the best works of its director, Pedro Almodóvar. Perhaps that’s because, as a twisty melodrama of sex, violence and sexual violence, it appears to cover a lot of the same ground as his previous films. But watch his movies chronologically and you’ll notice a slight but crucial shift in visual style. The candy and neon colors of works like Law of Desire are toned down and the film appears to take place in a world much closer to our own. Yet the ingredients of magical realism and adult fairy tales are still there. They’ve just melted into the whole like thinly sliced garlic dissolving into a tomato sauce. The ensuing effect is an uncanny and ineffable weirdness that Almodóvar would go on to employ in more recent films like the brilliantly discomfiting The Skin I Live In. The story of Live Flesh, which involves an extensive and decades-spanning love polygon, starts and ends with two different women giving birth in the middle of traffic jams. Everything that follows and precedes is fittingly sweaty, immediate and tactile. Sex, as in most of Almodóvar’s work, is the primary impulse for everything. Sex causes life and it also causes death and everything in between. Live Flesh‘s beauty lies in its refusal to qualify or place moral judgments on any of that. We are all made of flesh and there’s no sense in apologizing for it.