[Screen It]


(1998) (Liberto Rabal, Francesca Neri) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Heavy Moderate Heavy *Mild Heavy
Mild None Mild None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Extreme Mild Moderate Moderate Heavy

Comedy: A man sets out to ruin the lives of the two cops and the one woman who were responsible for sending him to jail.
Twenty years after being born on a city bus in Madrid, Víctor Plaza (LIBERTO RABAL) is a carefree young man. After having had sex with a local junkie, Elena (FRANCESCA NERI), Victor wants her to go out with him again, but she refuses as she's more interested in her drugs. He persists and their ensuing argument causes the neighbors to call the police. They show up in the form of two cops, David (JAVIER BARDEM) and his hard drinking, wife beating partner, Sancho (JOSÉ SANCHO), who's upset because he believes that his wife is having an affair.

The two cops confront Victor and at the end of a gun pointing standoff, David is accidentally shot, and Victor is wrongly sent to jail. Four years later he's released and sets out seeking nonviolent revenge on Elena and the two cops. Little does he know that David, now a paraplegic from the shooting, is a wheelchair basketball star with lucrative endorsement contracts and that he's since married Elena who's cleaned up her act.

While later "stalking" Elena, Victor meets a forgetful woman, Clara (ÁNGELA MOLINA), with whom he begins an affair. His plan comes into focus as he wants her to make him "the world's greatest lover" so that he can ruin Elena and David's lives. As his plan progresses, however, the lives of all of those he now knows become intertwined in a way that even he could not have imagined.

If they're fans of director Pedro Almodovar and his films ("Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdow," "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!"), they just might. Otherwise, this Spanish film in English subtitles won't appeal to many other kids.
For strong sexuality, language and some drug content.
Considering the affairs and the one wife beater, it's doubtful many parents would consider any of the major characters to be good role models. Only JAVIER BARDEM as the paraplegic former cop turned wheelchair basketball player is close (although he had an affair with a married woman in the past).


OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
When you hear the title "Live Flesh," the English translation for acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar's latest feature, "Carne Trémula," several thoughts inevitably pop into one's head. The first regards what the film is rated and whether it's some sort of porno film. Then one wonders if perhaps it's the latest biotechnology thriller where some new virus is literally eating away at some small town's population. Of course then you figure it must be a suspenseful horror film in the guise of a blob-like movie or perhaps a zombie, walking dead flick where some type of "monster" is after a group of innocent people.

Well, we're happy to report that while bits of the above are only partially correct, the truth is this movie, based on the novel by Ruth Rendell, is an entertaining, wild ride on the dark side of comedy. While some may see the explicit sex scenes as somewhat pornographic, and others may find the lead character as indeed, truly a monster that sets out to destroy other people's lives, they'll be somewhat missing the point and the film's weird sense of humor.

While I must admit that I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Almodovar's other noteworthy films such as "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" or "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" this film certainly makes me want to go back and check them out. If this film is anything like them and if you like your comedy a little dark and full of twists, then this picture is for you.

Although the obvious fans of Almodovar at our screening immediately zeroed in on the film's comic elements, it took me (and others) a while to align ourselves with his sense of humor and filmmaking. The opening sequence where the main character is born onboard a bus at night in downtown Madrid had some viewers giggling in glee, but it just didn't strike me as that funny. Once the movie started chugging along, however, I began to realize what was in store for us.

To explain what makes the movie so good would entail giving away the fun plot points and twists, so I can't go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, the film takes some unexpected turns that only help in stepping up the darkly comic torque the film so perfectly exudes. While those moments come as a surprise to us, they only add layer upon layer of increasing complications onto the characters and their lives in the story.

Almodovar, who's often credited with "discovering" Antonio Banderas (the new romantic/action leading man and star of "Desperado" and the upcoming "Mask Of Zorro"), enlists some decent performances from his cast in this movie. While few audience members stateside will recognize any of the performers (Javier Bardem was in "Boca a Boca") they all deliver interesting takes on their characters. Although you probably won't remember their names, you'll definitely recall the people they create.

While the director may take a few missteps here and there -- the opening birth of Victor on a city bus goes on way too long, but certainly has some unique moments, and there are probably too many scenes showing David playing basketball -- at other times he offers some fun, innovative scenes. One includes a real-life bullet that ricochets several times until it manages to bounce its way into a similarly staged movie that's playing on the nearby TV. Another involves a fight that stops when a goal is scored during the TV broadcast of a soccer game and the opponents briefly "bond" but then separate just as quickly once the soccer moment is over. Those and other similar scenes played well with our audience and make this movie stand out from the normal, cookie cutter flotsam that often makes its way onto the big screen.

The one main objection I have is that the film is subtitled. Much like any Shakespearean work or any other subtitled movie, it often takes a while to get into synch with watching a film presented in this fashion. Like most other subtitled features, the words on the bottom of the screen distract one's attention away from everything else that's happening, and since the dialogue here is often rapid fire and because so much visually transpires on screen, this film would have been better off dubbed. While I know many viewers don't like that and would prefer to read while listening to the native tongue, it causes many viewers to miss either bits of the dialogue or events that pass by while one's attention is focused on the "wrong" area at the wrong time.

The only thing that's worse is the English translated title. It certainly won't draw many people to a movie that already has its work cut out for it, and will probably repel others who might get the wrong impression regarding what the movie's really about. Even so, if you don't mind the explicit sex scenes and if you like your comedy black with a twist or two, then this movie might be right up your alley. We give "Live Flesh" a 7 out of 10.

Obviously aimed at adults, this film contains profanity, explicit sexual encounters and dialogue, and some drug use that give it an R rating. Although subtitled, at least 25 "f" words are used, some of which occur in explicit, sexual conversations. There are several sexual encounters that contain nudity, movement, and sexual sounds and one scene shows male full frontal nudity for several seconds. Many of those encounters come during affairs with other married people, and one of the men is a habitual wife beater and alcoholic.

Another character is a drug addict and we see her doing heavy drugs, as well as later smoking marijuana with her husband. Several violent scenes occur and a few people are shot and killed and are consequently bloody. While it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film -- except perhaps for the oldest of teens who may be fans of the director's previous works -- you should look through the material should you or someone else in your home wish to see this film.

  • Sancho is an alcoholic and we see him drinking from a bottle while driving and on duty (as a police officer).
  • Early on, Elena is a drug addict and she inhales the smoke from some sort of drug she heats with a flame (heroin?) and mentions she was "high" when she had sex with Victor.
  • Dave and his buddies drink beer at a party.
  • Sancho has a drink and brings his wife some wine, and later we see her drinking again.
  • David says, "Come here, Elena, we'll smoke a joint and relax," and he then comments that he looks relaxed because he's already smoked one. We then see them sharing a joint.
  • Sancho asks David if he has any "coke," because it "dries up your tears." We don't see any, however.
  • A pregnant woman's water breaks (that we see on the floor of a bus), and we later see another woman whose hands and mouth are somewhat bloody (she bit through the umbilical cord for lack of any cutting object -- we don't see that) after the baby is delivered.
  • Elena has a small, bloody cut on her face, and Sancho later has the same.
  • A man's side is a little bloody after a bullet has grazed him.
  • A person who's been shot is rather bloody, as is another person with them.
  • Sancho has both as he has a history of beating up his wife.
  • Most of the characters have affairs with other married people.
  • Victor sets out to ruin the lives of those partially responsible for sending him to jail.
  • On the surface the following may seem tense, but for the most part they're played in a "comic" fashion.
  • There are several scenes where people aim guns at others or find themselves in a stalemate situation where both parties have guns.
  • A fire breaks out on Clara's stove and she pours water on it that only makes it worse.
  • A few moments where Sancho is abusive to his wife, or when she holds a gun on him might prove tense to some viewers.
  • Handguns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: (All in English subtitles): "Bastard," "Jerk off," "Shut up," "Pissed off," "Balls" (testicles), and "Lunatic."
  • David gives "the finger" to a basketball referee during a game.
  • A woman sprays hair spray into a man's eyes.
  • None.
  • There's just a mild bit of dramatically suspenseful music in a few scenes.
  • None.
  • (All in English subtitles) At least 25 "f" words (6 used sexually as are variations of the word "screw" that are used 5 times), 10 "s" words, 1 slang term for female genitals (the "p" word), 5 asses (2 using "hole"), 4 damns, 2 hells, 1 S.O.B., and 4 uses of "Christ," 2 uses of "God" and 1 use each of "Oh God" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • Sancho reminds Elena that they had sex together a week earlier. He says that they had "a great f*ck" and that it was his first time, but she says, "Just because you came between my legs the other night, you think you can sneak in here..?
  • A "classic" painting on a wall shows a bare-breasted woman, and we also see some sort of game board that has a drawing of a bare-breasted woman on it.
  • We briefly see what appears to be a nude pinup on the wall in Victor's old home (the woman's hand covers her bare breast).
  • Victor wonders how many "tricks" (prostitution) his mother had to turn to make the money she left him as his inheritance (he guesses around one thousand tricks).
  • David performs oral sex on Elena while he sits in the bathtub and she has her legs around his head (we see her pleasured reactions).
  • Victor and Clara have sex and we see a closeup of his back moving and hear sexual sounds. He then tells her that he wants her to teach him how to be a great lover. He asks her, "What do you think about when you masturbate?" She later tells him (about her genitals), "Don't dive at it so fast, don't eat it, or stick it in. You have to prepare it first...don't worry, it will tell you when it's ready..."
  • We see Victor undressing Clara and see her in her bra.
  • We see full frontal nudity of Victor for several seconds after he's used his towel to put out a fire.
  • We see Elena's bare breasts as she undresses for Victor. We then hear sexual sounds and see his bare butt moving up and down and then see him on top of her (with more bare breasts). The scene is very sensual in nature and we then see her on top of him with movement and him groping her breasts. Finally we see them lying nude alongside each other (bare butts).
  • We briefly see Elena's bare breasts in the shower.
  • David moves his head up between Elena's legs and kisses her there. She says that she's not in the mood and when he asks if it hurts, she says yes and that's because "I was f*cking all night."
  • We see several still photos of Victor and Clara as they have sex up against a wall and we see him between her legs.
  • Elena smokes a few times, Sancho smokes once, and some background characters also smoke in different scenes.
  • Sancho has a history of beating up his wife and we see him smack her and also see her with a black eye, etc... and she says that she wants to separate from him.
  • Victor gets a letter from his mother (while in jail) saying that she has cancer, and by the time he gets out she has died.
  • We see Elena and others at her father's funeral.
  • Several people have affairs that threaten the stability of their marriages.
  • Domestic abuse (Sancho beats his wife).
  • That David, who is a paraplegic after being shot, still succeeds in his life and becomes a wheelchair playing basketball star.
  • A fire breaks out on Clara's stove and she pours water on it that only makes it worse.
  • We see Sancho's wife with a black eye (implying that he hit her).
  • Elena holds a gun on Victor. They then struggle and the gun goes off (and we see a woman on a TV show hit with a simultaneously fired shot). Elena and Victor then briefly struggle and Sancho and Dave arrive with their guns drawn. Victor holds his gun on Elena, and later he and Sancho struggle for it, it fires, and Dave is hit and paralyzed.
  • David punches Victor in the crotch for "stalking" his wife.
  • Sancho slaps his wife hard on the face.
  • Victor and David struggle on the floor as Victor tries to show David what really happened when he was shot years earlier.
  • A woman sprays hair spray into a man's eyes when he won't let her leave the room. Moments later she shoots him, but we later see that she only grazed his side.
  • David violently knocks items from the kitchen table.
  • Two people shoot each other and later a man shoots himself (heard but not seen).

  • Reviewed February 9, 1998

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