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MGM Studios DVD presents

Live Flesh (1997)

"You always happen to be where you shouldn't. "- David de Paz (Javier Bardem)

Stars: Javier Bardem, Francesca Neri, Liberto Rabal, Ángela Molina
Other Stars: José Sancho, Penélope Cruz, Pilar Bardem, Álex Angulo, Mariola Fuentes, Voel Be, Josep Molins, Daniel Lanchas, María Rosenfeldt
Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, language and some drug content
Run Time: 01h:40m:53s
Release Date: 2001-04-10
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-A D+


DVD Review

Having just had my initiation to director Pedro Almodóvar's Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown recently, I had no idea what to expect from Live Flesh (Carne trémula), especially after reading the review of Aldomóvar's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (¬°Átame!) here at dOc. While I could have lived without seeing the first ten minutes of the film, which depict—in more detail than at least most men need—the process of childbirth, the rest holds up pretty well, and has enough internal detail to remain interesting for the duration.

Born during a time when the rights of Spanish citizens had been suspended, Víctor Plaza (Liberto Rabal) was notorious from the moment he entered the world, on the silent streets of Madrid in an off duty bus. This earned him accolades from the government and a lifetime transit pass. Flash forward 20 years, and we meet David de Paz (Javier Bardem) and his partner Sancho (José Sancho), two police officers assigned to the streets. On patrol, Sancho guzzles whisky as they drive around the city. After a call to his wife Clara (Ángela Molina)—who is revealed to have black eyes from a previous meeting with her husband—Sancho confides to David that his wife is having an affair. He claims his drinking is the only thing stopping him from killing her and her lover, though he doesn't know who that is. We next see Victor, trying to keep his date with a woman he'd had carnal knowledge of in a washroom cubicle the week before. The girl, Elena Benedetti (Francesca Neri), is more concerned with arranging for her latest shipment of drugs, and tells Victor she is engaged for the evening when he calls. After spending some time utilizing his transit pass, Victor returns to Elena's, sees she is still in, and buzzes her apartment. Mistaken for Elena's dealer, he is let in. Needless to say, Elena (whose name is spelled "Helena" on the card Victor carries), isn't happy to see him, and asks him to leave at gunpoint. He knocks her unconscious, the gun goes off, and the police are called by neighbors. Victor is about to leave peacefully when Sancho and David arrive, and the three get embroiled in a standoff at gunpoint, which eventually ends with David being shot when Sancho and Victor struggle for the gun.

Five years later, Victor is ready to be set free from the prison term that ensued from the shooting incident. We also learn that Elena is now married to David, who has become paralysed by the shot and is now a star wheelchair athlete. When Victor meets up with Elena again in a chance encounter, it sets off a series of events that will change the lives of everyone involved forever.

The opening aside, this wasn't a bad film. The acting and direction were decent, and the storyline, while kind of predictable (at least after the fact) worked well. Unlike the completely mild Women On The Verge..., this film contains some pretty candid, if not explicit, sexual situations, and in the nudity department we get a bit of both worlds. I also didn't find the cinematography quite as stylish, with fewer unusual angles than I was expecting. As its own piece, it was engaging, though I doubt you'll find it on my frequent recommendations list.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A few specs here and there, and a bit of aliasing are about the only faults with this transfer I could find. The image isn't oversharpened and therefore has a natural look to it, despite some noticible grain in places. Colors look warm and earthy, complimenting the settings used in the film. Perhaps a tad too dark in a couple of spots, but that is getting picky. Not reference, but preferable to many other transfers I've seen from MGM.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
Castilian Spanishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 5.1 surround in the original Castilian Spanish. The surrounds are used to great effect with the soundtrack, with a fair amount of extreme directionality, primarily in the score. No hiss or distortion was detected, all around a good job in this department.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The film's theatrical trailer, presented in English and at 1.85:1 is the only extra.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

Despite some difficult scenes, Live Flesh is an interesting character study surrounding a group of people brought together by chance, with some interesting twists in the plot. Some content may offend more sensitive viewers. While I wouldn't have a hard time recommending Almodˆ„vars' Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, this one gets a pretty neutral opinion from this reviewer.

Jeff Ulmer 2001-04-23