A young pizza delivery man, Victor (Liberto Rabal) is trying to seduce the beautiful but
feisty Elena (Francesca Neri), whom he met a few days ago in a nightclub and with whom he
had a fumbled quickie in the toilet. But she was drunk then and doesn’t want to know
about him now. Elena is expecting her drug delivery man, and wants Victor out, but he
wants to stay, so there is a scene. A neighbour reports the ruckus and two cops, young
David (Javier Bardem) and older Sancho (Jose Sancho), arrive. With everyone edgy, the
situation gets heated and Elena’s gun (her father’s) goes off…David is hit.
Four years later David is wheelchair-bound but the star of a disabled basketball team,
married to Elena. Victor is released from prison and seeks to redress the wrong he feels
has been done. But his need for revenge is overtaken by his love for Elena, something he
can’t have. At the same time, Sancho’s marriage disintegrates and his wife
– once David’s lover – brings all their destinies together with great
"Colours explode and appear brighter and richer in Pedro Almodóvar’s films:
Live Flesh is no exception. This latest outing has all the ingredients that we have
learned to anticipate from this extraordinary filmmaker - drama with a hint of comedy and
a large dose of the sensuous. The cinematography caresses, lingers and flows with the
fluidity of motion while the mix of music is dramatic, paradoxical and poetic. The
characters are beautifully drawn, and although the action takes place over 26 years, the
story flows like a river with a purpose, each character naturally fitting into the jigsaw.
Almodóvar’s story captures all the complexities, ironies and coincidences of life
with characters ripe with colour, vulnerabilities and human foibles exposed. And no-one is
innocent in this tale of infidelity and its consequences. The entire cast is superb -
Javier Bardem, magnificent as David, whose passions lie deep beneath the surface;
Francesca Neri, enigmatic as Elena and Liberto Rabal reminding me a little of a young
Antonio Banderas - replete with fire and fight. Vibrant and evocative, Live Flesh is a
delicious story of lust, obsession, envy, revenge and love - one that will transport you
deep into the exotic world of the extraordinary Almodóvar."
"Taking a Ruth Rendell book as his starting point, Almodóvar gives it the unique
treatment he applies to all his filmed stories. For one thing, the characters openly
– and often - enjoy sex; for another, they are always more complex and guilty than
the usual run of film characters, as if they had stepped out of Almodóvar’s group of
friends that he knows intimately. And thirdly, there is always ample humour derived from
the weakness of human nature as displayed by each of us in varying ways. He loves the
contradictions that make us unique; he loves to show the venality we try to hide; he
revels in exposing guilt and in balancing that with showing how generous we all can be.
Nobody is labelled ‘baddie’ or ‘goodie’ in Almodóvar’s films,
and the sense of drama is always balanced with the joy of life. Live Flesh is a sparkling
and mature entertainment told and performed with the passion of artists."
Andrew L. Urban
"Few directors of recent years are as audacious and compelling as Spain's Pedro
Almodovar, and with his latest film, there is evidence considerable growth and maturity.
The director has taken a very British story by renowned mystery writer Ruth Rendell, and
turned it into a masterful political thriller, complex, witty and stylish. Everything
about this film seems so perfect, from the multilayered script, its unpredictable
characters and events, its fluid, seamless construction and the director's astute
visualisation. Live Flesh is a compelling and fascinating tale, intricately unfolded and
beautifully acted. As the junkie whose life is transformed, Italy's Francesca Neri is a
revelation, delivering a boldly etched performance rich in complex detail, while the
extraordinary Angela Molina makes a bewitching Clara. Liberto Rabal also impresses as the
central figure bent on revenge. It's all here in true Almodovar style, and the result is a
bewitching and entertaining tale of power, sex, corruption and passion. It's the
director's best work in years and a marvellous piece of intelligent cinema."
"More restrained than some of Almodovar's previous films, this is still the work of a director who's proudly unrepressed. Explicit political messages at the start and finish are reinforced in between by a lively visual surface. Bright primary colors painted on a children's shelter, David's T-shirt with the Tasmanian Devil playing basketball, combine sensual excitement with democratic everyday life. In a relaxed way, the film is frankly turned on by the bodies of its massively good-looking actors (both male and female), and as usual Almodovar calmly accepts behavior others might see as offensive or disturbed: not everyone is going to be charmed by a dumb hunk who thinks of himself as a victim while behaving like a virtual stalker. The major problem, though, is that Almodovar's mainly optimistic and open-ended approach to character doesn't quite fit with his intermittent idea that he's making a doom-driven, fatalistic thriller. The plot mechanics, reliant on coincidence, still seem a little jokey and arbitrary, and while the concluding confrontation has a tragic result, a sense of final, inevitable doom is deliberately swerved away from...which is OK but makes the film seem, in the end, rather pointless. But it's a pleasure while it lasts."
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LIVE FLESH (MA)
CAST: Liberio Rabal, Javier Bardem, Francesca Neri, Angela Molina, Jose Sancho
DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodóvar
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Agustin Almodóvar
SCRIPT: Pedro Almodóvar (Based on the novel by Ruth Rendell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Affonso Beato
EDITOR: Jose Salcedo
MUSIC: Alberto Iglesias
PRODUCTION DIRECTOR: Esther Garcia
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Globe
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: : Sydney: July 23, 1998.
Melbourne: Sept 17, 1998;
Other states: October;
Perth: December; Brisbane ACT: Dec 3