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Almodóvar Lite

[whitespace] Live Flesh
Daniel Martinez

A Virgin's Trembling Heart: Young Victor (Liberto Rabal) can't forget the woman who deflowered him in 'Live Flesh.'

'Live Flesh' delivers pastel-toned pathos

By Richard von Busack

THE NEW Pedro Almodóvar film, Live Flesh, is milder Almodóvar, in the new style of his last movie, Flower of My Secret, but neither as compelling nor as bewildering. We all become the things we satirize. Almodóvar started by skewering soap operas, and now he has the style down complete. Occasional bursts of sex don't make Live Flesh's chic story of human flotsam challenging. Instead of the vibrant artificial colors of his early films, the director gives us a sort of pastel-toned pathos. When a character says, "I wouldn't mind ending up in a wheelchair, if I could get Clara back," it's hard to take him seriously but impossible to laugh either.

Victor (the Antonio Banderas-like Liberto Rabal), a studly innocent with a virgin's trembling heart, is used fast but dropped hard by Elena (Francesca Neri), who deflowered him in a disco bathroom. When he comes back to discuss the matter, she's scared of him and uses a pistol to frighten him away. The gun goes off, a cop (played by Javier Bardem) ends up in a wheelchair and the poor ex-virgin goes to jail for several years. When Victor emerges from incarceration, he discovers that the cop he went to jail for shooting has married and reformed the wealthy, trashy Elena. You don't expect Almodóvar to take you to an orphanage or to a game of wheelchair basketball; Live Flesh is a good-looking melodrama with a few arresting comic tones, but it's no more than that.

Live Flesh (R; 100 min.), directed and written by Pedro Almodóvar, based on the novel by Ruth Rendell, photographed by Affonso Beato and starring Angela Molina and Liberto Rabel.

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From the February 19-25, 1998 issue of Metro.

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