“Pedro [Almodovar] and I have been talking about this film for 10 years,” Antonio Banderas said Thursday night at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, at a Cinema Society- and DeLeón-sponsored screening of “The Skin I Live In,” his latest project with the director. Fresh from mugging for photographers on the red carpet with Julian Schnabel, Banderas was eager to muse on coincidences.
“I’ve got to tell you, I never thought this movie was going to happen,” he said, raising his eyebrows. “Then one day Pedro calls me and all he says is: ‘It’s about time.’ I was at a theater just around the corner, The Flea theater. And it was snowing. And when the driver brought me here tonight, I couldn’t believe that we were going back to the place where it all began. How about that?”
“The Skin I Live In” is a typical Almodóvar feat in that it is simultaneously perverse and polished, a glossy world that deals in disturbing themes on an escalating scale (the nature of identity, mental illness, rape, mutilation and murder, to name a few). It’s as if the “Saw” films all took place within the pages of Architectural Digest.
Banderas, who plays a sort of Cary Grant-cum-Dr. Frankenstein, picked and twisted imaginary threads when discussing the surgeries depicted in the film.
The actor plays opposite the gamine Elena Anaya, who Almodóvar described at the premiere as, “like a soldier but also the most delicate human being you can imagine.”
“It’s the most disturbing film that Pedro’s done, certainly, and not because it’s gory,” Banderas continued. “It doesn’t actually show too much, and [Almodóvar] says very wisely that it’s all hidden in this way, in the black bits of the movie, everything that is bloody, that is disturbing to the eye is actually hidden, like the blood and mass is hidden under the skin in our bodies. But does it disturb you psychologically? Yeah.”
“If they say it’s the most disturbing thing I’ve ever done, well, sure,” the director said. “Everyone has a reason to say what they say. I understand that there’s a situation in the film that’s 20 minutes that belongs to a horror movie and that really impregnates the rest of the movie. But from my part, I don’t know. After dealing with this material for so long, there are some moments where you really, you’re not conscious of it anymore. But I understand the movie can disturb. When the audience watches it, there’s usually a few minutes of just shock, and then five, 10 minutes later they’re talking with friends about it the whole dinner through…it’s always good to have something to talk about during a meal. So if that’s what they mean by disturb, good!”
A director of Almodóvar’s stature is sure to draw a few famous friends to his screenings, and Thursday night was no exception. The cinema at the Tribeca Grand held Marc Jacobs, Martha Stewart, Debbie Harry, Steven Klein, Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein, while Madonna showed up to the after party at Double Seven to pay her respects.
“Hello, you!” she cried, grasping Almodóvar’s hand.