Subdued Pedro Almodóvar Returns to Cannes, and Cannes Returns to Normal

Poor Pedro Almodóvar. His new movie, The Skin I Live In, is suitably lush and twisted, but especially after the Lars von Trier Nazi fiasco yesterday, the press conference after the well-received screening was restrained to the point of snooziness. Even Almodóvar's famous shock of hair looked relatively tame this morning, a little less Don King than usual. Sitting up there with his key actors (Antonio Banderas, Marisa Paredes and Elena Anaya, among others) and his brother/producer Agustín Almodóvar, he looked like a polite schoolboy in his green jacket and striped polo shirt.

You wouldn't know this guy had just presented a sick-as-hell and yet unequivocally cheerful thriller about a plastic surgeon (played by Banderas, in his first film with Almodóvar in more than 20 years) who avenges his daughter's rape by... Well, never mind for now. (A full review is forthcoming.) Almodóvar answered even the dullest questions dutifully, albeit with that vaguely anxious look he always wears during public Q&A's.

The director said that while he doesn't think any film has to conform rigidly to a particular category -- thriller, musical, melodrama, comedy -- he did aim, with The Skin I Live In, to do a Fritz Lang-style thriller. "At the beginning, I was thinking that it should be a silent film in black-and-white," he said, a response that garnered polite laughs from the gathered press corps because we've already got one of those this year at Cannes, with Michel Hazanavicius' lithe charmer (and festival favorite) The Artist. Almodóvar went on to say that he was also influenced, of course, by Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face. (The Skin I Live In is a rarity for Almodóvar in that it's adapted from a novel, Thierry Jonquet's stylish, perverse Tarantula.)

As marvelously depraved as The Skin I Live In is -- it features the voluptuous Anaya doing yoga poses in a nude-colored full body-stocking, as well as plenty of ewky surgical stuff -- Almodóvar insists he didn't want to make an explicit horror film. "I wanted suspense, but without gore, without blood. I didn't want it to be a gory affair, with blood flying everywhere." And early on, in response to one oh-so-clever wag who wanted to ascertain that he wasn't a Nazi, Almodóvar, looking more shocked than amused, said, "I don't think I even need to answer that question." Nor did it need to be asked in the first place.

Read more of Movieline's coverage of Cannes 2011 here.

[Photo: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images]