Tainted love

Kiss me, you fool!

SECOND SKIN

directed by Gerardo Vera with Javier Bardem and Jordi Mollࠍ runs March 1-7 at Varsity


YOU EITHER GO with Second Skin‘s sopping, wide-eyed melodrama, or you get out. You’ll be able to decide the minute the surging strings and black-and-white credits begin, a smoky montage of flowers, conch shells, undulating silhouettes, and Rorschach-like X-rays that morph into the lead actors.

In a world of cozy suburban bliss and melancholy sunsets, Alberto (irritatingly hangdog Jordi Moll੠is a respected engineer with a beautiful, devoted wife and adorable son. He’s also tormented by his passionate affair with a kindly doctor played by Before Night Falls‘ Javier Bardem. (You know he’s a real physician when he taps on an X-ray and notes, “This is a serious fracture of the tibia.”)

Director Gerardo Vera’s emotionalism is so anachronistically thick and glossy that this 1999 film swoons like a remake of 1982’s Making Love, in which Michael Ontkean took one look at Harry Hamlin, then left Kate Jackson to reconsider departing Charlie’s Angels. It’s all terribly earnest, unimpeachably sincere, and occasionally ludicrous. (Just wait until the climax, a random tragedy right out of Douglas Sirk.)

But, oh, the innocent joy of such overwrought stuff, where gorgeous Spanish people say things like, “You know what I’d like? To just lose ourselves. Far away from all of this.” And, my, but there is second, third, and fourth skin here—lovely nudity and lushly erotic love scenes, including Moll࠴angling with Bardem while he pleads, “Harder! Harder!”

Guilty pleasures aside, the best reason to see Skin is Bardem, whose performance is supple and compassionately alive. Watching Moll࠷ith an apprehensive, liquid stare, he seems the embodiment of beleaguered human gentleness.

swiecking@seattleweekly.com