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Almodovar Back To Form With ‘Flesh’

Ever since Pedro Almodovar’s 1993 comedy, “Kika,” enraged liberal critics and lost him his feminist audience (it had a rape scene, callously played for laughs), the Spanish badboy director seems to have embarked on a welcome course correction.

His last film, 1995’s “The Flower of My Secret,” was a surprisingly poignant drama about the mid-life crisis of a successful Spanish romance novelist that displayed much humor but precious little of his infamous kinky-sex black comedy.

And despite its salacious title, his new film, “Live Flesh,” is also a rather low-key little film noir with a comedic edge that steers clear of Almodovar’s more traditional campy outrageousness.

The story is about a young man (Liberto Rabal) who, in pursuit of a beautiful junkie (Francesca Neri), becomes inadvertently involved in a drug bust in which a police officer (Javier Bardem) is crippled for life.

Cut to seven years later and the young man returns from prison with vengeance in mind. But the junkie is now rehabilitated and runs a day care center, and she’s married to the ex-policeman, who is the star center of a handicapped basketball team.

The film opens with a strange prologue, showing the hero’s emergency birth on a city bus. And, as usual with Almodovar, the film has an air of absurdity and tends to dwell on a comically unhappy woman in the midst of a nervous breakdown.

But the opening has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film, the campy edge is only an edge, and the movie is a fairly straight-forward morality tale about the folly of an obsessed character returning from the grave to create havoc on a quartet of lives.

As such, “Live Flesh” works well. It has that illusive element which Almodovar, at his best, is quite capable of delivering - glamour.

xxxx “Live Flesh” Location: Lincoln Heights Cinema Art Credits: Directed and written by Pedro Almodovar, starring Javier Bardem, Francesca Neri, Liberto Rabal, Angela Molina Running time: 1:41 Rating: R (In Spanish with English subtitles.)