A delightfully oddball, bad-taste comedy with a political point, “Chicken Skin” is a surprise pleasure. Inspired by the sociocritical ’50s comedies of Berlanga, pic is sharply scripted and well played, but its lack of glamour and its capable but low-profile cast don’t figure to translate into commercial appeal. Helmer Javier Maqua’s earlier “Chevrolet” (1997) is a forgotten gem, and a similar fate awaits “Skin,” which generated meager B.O. in its first week domestically. Fests rep its only real chance of further exposure.
Pic is set in Asturias, northern Spain, where the mining industry is in crisis. Ex-miner Luison (Txema Blasco), father to unemployed Gelin (Karra Elejalde, solid), dies while visiting the village brothel, run by Carmen (the much underrated Isabel Ordaz). Rather than bury him, the family decides to keep him at home until the following Monday, when they can claim his pension and thus dodge penury. Pic makes deft satirical strikes at the absurdities of Spanish bureaucracy through its frenetic, politically incorrect humor, and script and perfs ably tease out the warmth and dignity of characters who refuse to accept their social lot.