Like fellow Spaniard Luis Buñuel, Pedro Almodóvar has developed a sense of style so unique his films occupy an idiosyncratic genre all of their own. In his later films that invariably means campy, over-the-top plots played utterly straight amid an orgy of sumptuous design.

On one level his latest, adapted from a novel by France’s Thierry Jonquet, is a luridly macabre melodrama with enough outlandish plot developments to fuel three separate movies. But on another level it offers up a fascinating meditation on beauty, sexual obsession and the putative
male desire to mould, gaze upon and own the female body.

It begins with a skin surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who keeps a beautiful woman (Elena Anaya) as a compliant prisoner in his palatial home. How she came to be there is a long shaggy dog story that unfolds with a farcically complicated series of twists and flashbacks. These include a scene where the surgeon’s half-brother arrives on his doorstep wearing a tiger costume as if this is perfectly normal behaviour.

Georges Franju’s 1960 classic horror Eyes Without a Faceis an obvious touchstone but the new film is more ridiculous than horrific. Yet despite this – the Almodóvar paradox? – the result is oddly...