Carne Trémula [Live Flesh] (1997)

(In Spanish with French Subtitles, On TV, May 2017) I don’t like Pedro Almodovar’s work quite as much as most movie critics, but I will, at least, grant that his movies are quite unlike anyone else’s. They don’t stick to the formula, they’re willing to portray quirky characters undergoing unimaginable trauma, and they readily reach for uncomfortable situations that would feel extreme in other contexts. Trying to give a plot summary of Carne Trémula to someone used to the standard Hollywood three-act structure would earn wary stares and audible derision. Even while watching the film, it’s sometimes hard to avoid a few well-placed “Oh, come on!” But there are rewards to the whole mess, and it’s a kind of experience that’s strange and universal at once, with actors going far beyond what is expected of them in more ordinary cinema. Javier Bardem is very good here in an early role, which Penelope Cruz gets a small but merciless role. Less familiar actresses such as Francesca Neri and Angela Molina also get good parts to play in a small but intense cast of characters improbably linked together. The film’s Madrid backdrop is unusual but does not obscure common themes. I don’t think anyone will be comforted or conventionally entertained by Carne Trémula … but it’s certainly, like most of Almodovar’s movies, a memorable experience.

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