Live FleshJanuary 16, 1998
After leaving jail, Víctor is still in love with Elena, but she's married to the former cop -now basketball player- who became paralysed by a shot from Víctor's gun…
Release Year: 1997
Rating: 7.5/10 (13,192 voted)
Critic's Score: 69/100
Stars: Liberto Rabal, Francesca Neri, Javier Bardem
Pizza delivery man Victor is having an argument with Elena, whom he met a few days ago, but she was high then and doesn't want to hear about him. Reacting to the noise, two cops, young David and older Sancho, arrive at the scene, the gun accidentally goes off.. Four years later David is a wheelchair basketball star, he's married to Elena, Victor is released out of prison and their destinies begin to cross again.
Writers: Pedro Almodóvar, Jorge Guerricaechevarría
(as Angela Molina)
(as Jose Sancho)
Isabel Plaza Caballero
(as Penelope Cruz)
Doña Centro de Mesa
Conductor del autobús
(as Alex Angulo)
(as Maria Rosenfeldt)
Life, love, desire…and everything in between.
Release Date: 16 January 1998
Filming Locations: Madrid, Spain
Opening Weekend: $59,558
(19 January 1998)
(5 April 1998)
Did You Know?
The literal translation of the Spanish title is "trembling flesh".
You're aiming at your superior!
No, I'm aiming at a lunatic and a drunk!
"Una Vida Sobre Ruedos"
One of Almodovar's favourite conceits is the use of old TV and movie
images as ironic commentary on our modern lives. He loves the sheer
trashiness of those millions of hours of low-grade output and he likes to
mimic 1950's sitcom formats ("Women On The Verge") or to splice 'quotes'
from old footage into his modern tales. It's a device which he uses very
effectively in this film. When the gun is fired in the apartment, a shot
rings out from the TV set in the corner. The fake news item of the bus
birth, in black and white to represent the drabness of Franco's Spain, is a
loving recreation of TV's golden age. Women are mannequins in these old TV
shows, used by men as objects of prurient displays, and of violence. Our
mass media have drugged us, suggests Almodovar, into being passive
recipients of authority's handouts. We can no longer distinguish between
entertainment and reality. David confronts Victor and wounds him in the
testicles, but the two enemies are immediately distracted by the soccer game
on TV and become 'guys together', forgetting their hatred in the communal
false orgasm of the scored goal.
Names are always important in Almodovar films, and in this one they
hold the key to the story's many meanings. Elena is Helen of Troy, the
creature who radiates unconscious sexual appeal and leads men into war and
destruction. Victor Plaza's name contains several layers of symbolic
importance. He is the film's real victor, overcoming the misfortune of the
shooting and his own sexual imbecility to attain true happiness in America.
Many Spanish towns have a 'Plaza de la Victoria', a municipal tribute to the
great historical sea triumph of Lepanto. In this sense Victor's name makes
him the personification of ordinary Spanish life, a hispanic Everyman.
Isabel Plaza Caballero, the prostitute whose wretched short life becomes a
saintly image of suffering and continuity, has the name of Spain's great
Catholic queen and the title of a 'gentlewoman'. For Almodovar there is no
contradiction in a whore having nobility. Sancho is a kind of Sancho Panza
to David's Quixote, the latter idealistic but impotent, the former
iconoclastic and comical.
Almodovar's trademark is the looping circular plot in which the
characters both repeat and vary their patterns of behaviour, crossing one
another's paths and inadvertently echoing the actions of others. Nowhere is
this better illustrated than here. The plot is almost literally circular,
beginning and ending with childbirth in a wheeled vehicle, and Victor's
life-defining moment hinging on the circular bus ride which brings him back
to the identical spot where he started, a payphone on the Calle Eduardo
Dato. The characters penetrate one another's lives in ways that are totally
convincing, and with a grounding in human psychology which few writers or
directors can display.
Opposites and contradictions are everywhere. Victor is the prison
convict, the sexual inadequate born of a prostitute on a bus, who rises to
become an admirable man, sexually proficient, successful, and a loving
husband and father. Sancho the macho cop is a spiritual cripple, relying on
alcohol to deaden the pain of his failure as a lover. David the real
cripple is a national sporting hero. The mother is the whore, the charity
director is the heroin addict and the naive lad is the jailbird. The
welcome mat on Clara's threshold is the cruellest of ironies. Marriage and
sexual coupling are the fabric of the story, but in fact everyone is
cuckolded sooner or later. David used to 'service' Clara, now Victor
performs that function, and the 'manly' Sancho is sexually redundant. Elena
copulates with Victor at the dramatic climax, and we recall that it was a
sexual encounter between these two which launched the whole
It is hard to watch Almodovar's work without thinking of Bunuel. The
adolescent preoccupation with the 'obscure object of desire' is a good
example. Almodovar is fascinated by the vagina, and over and over again in
this film we see men's heads buried between women's legs. Two boy children
emerge from wombs, David performs oral sex on Elena in the bath, Victor
studies Clara's pudendum, David approaches Elena's genitalia along his
wheelchair ramp. The great sloping twin towers of Madrid's Puerta de Europa
form an architectural pun, a visual representation of a woman's open thighs.
Victor's emotional speech at Isabel's burial site (apart from advancing the
plot neatly) is one more image of a man's face in a woman's vagina, the
grave being the ultimate womb. This particular vagina brought Victor into
the world, and through its immoral earnings it gave him the money to
The first Christmas in the film, like the First Christmas, happens in a
very unpromising setting. It is cold in Madrid in every sense. The final
years of Franco's joyless, oppressive reign are conveyed very effectively in
a restrained palette of blacks, browns and greys. A state of emergency has
been declared by a faceless Authority, grown paranoid about the danger of
'outside influences'. Victor has entered a drab and frightened world, with
a bus driver as his reluctant Joseph. By the close of the film Christmas
has acquired its cheerful capitalist trappings. This is a 'Christmas in the
sun'. Victor is in the young land of freedom and opportunity. He has come
of age and is now the complete man. The future looks bright for the New
David, father and son.