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'Bad Education': Pedro Almodóvar Outstanding 'Gay Film Noir'

Bad Education Gael Garcia Bernal Pedro Almodovar'Bad Education.'

Bad Education: Pedro Almodóvar's complex, disturbing, brilliant gay film noir (in gorgeous color)

One of Pedro Almodóvar's most accomplished, most complex, and most daring films, Bad Education / La Mala educación is a disturbing, but also immensely moving effort that cleverly twists all the conventions of the film noir genre. As a plus, Bad Education offers Almodóvar's trademark stylish visuals and a whole array of first-rate performances. Bad Education is so brilliant that it was mostly neglected during the 2004-2005 awards season in North America and, though far superior to that year's Best Picture Oscar nominees, failed to receive a single Academy Award nod. (Image: Gael García Bernal Bad Education.)

Set in 1980, around the time Almodóvar himself began making movies, Bad Education tells the story of Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez), a young film director in dire need of inspiration for his next project. Coincidentally, at that point Enrique becomes reacquainted with a long-lost friend, the handsome Ignacio (Gael García Bernal).

An ensuing series of flashbacks mixing reality with fiction – featured in a short story written by Ignacio – reveal that Enrique and Ignacio had been boyfriends when they were young boys attending Catholic school. Another revelation is that one of the school's priests, Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho), had been madly in love with the angelic-looking and -sounding Ignacio.

Enrique eventually decides to make a film out of Ignacio's short story. But first, he must come to come to terms with the fact that the boy he once loved has returned to his life. Or has he?

Bad Education: Reality and fiction as one

In Bad Education, past and present, memories and imagination, film world and real world intertwine to the point where the truth is nowhere and everywhere. The result is a highly personal film – though Pedro Almodóvar swears Bad Education is not autobiographical – that works as a psychological study of shattered minds, an indictment against hypocrisy and abuse of power, and an engrossing demonstration of the director's passion for the art of cinema.

Headed by Y Tu Mamá También's Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, the Bad Education cast is uniformly excellent. Bernal, in particular, proves himself one of the most effective, most honest, most versatile, and most fearless film actors of the early 21st century. Bernal is so fearless, in fact, that in the United States Bad Education was slapped with a ludicrous NC-17 rating – for “explicit” (gay) sexual content.

And finally, the Bad Education dreamlike storyline and atmosphere are immensely assisted by José Luis Alcaine's soft but vibrant hues (you have to watch the film to understand what I mean) and by Alberto Iglesias' classy score.

Note: This is an expanded version of a capsule Bad Education review published in March 2005.

Bad Education / La Mala educación (2004). Direction and screenplay: Pedro Almodóvar. Cast: Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lluís Homar, Javier Cámara, Petra Martínez, Nacho Pérez, Raúl García Forneiro, Francisco Boira, Juan Fernández, Leonor Watling.

'Bad Education' DVD

Bad Education, the story of two boys whose love is torn apart by a jealous Catholic priest, is one of Pedro Almodóvar's most satisfying, most complex, and most daring films. That's saying a lot, considering that Almodóvar is the man responsible for Talk to Her / Hable con ella (2002), with its sympathetic rapist, and Law of Desire / La ley del deseo (1987), with its sympathetic stalker.

A neo-film noir that twists the conventions of the genre – for instance, the femme fatale is actually an homme fatal with a cross-dressing fixation – Bad Education is an intelligent, moving, and quite disturbing film. Headed by Mexican actor Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mamá También, The Motorcycle Diaries), the cast is uniformly excellent.

In the U.S., Bad Education was slapped with an NC-17 rating because of its “explicit sexual content.” The censors at the Motion Picture Association of America apparently have wildly kinky imaginations, for there's absolutely no explicit sex in the film. Having said that, I must admit that the gay sex scenes are quite bold – though hardly erotic. Also, they are very much an intrinsic part of the story.

Among its many international awards and nominations, Bad Education was chosen as the Best Foreign Language Film of 2004 by the New York Film Critics Circle. It received no Academy Award nominations.

Bad Education DVD features:

  • Choice of either the unedited NC-17 version or a censored, family-friendly R-rated version.
  • Picture: Anamorphic widescreen.
  • Audio: Spanish (Dolby).
  • Subtitles: English. Closed captioning.

This Bad Education DVD commentary was initially posted in March '05.

Movie Review: Pedro Almodóvar Bad Education Gael García Bernal photo: Sony Pictures Classics.


         
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1 Comment to 'Bad Education': Pedro Almodóvar Outstanding 'Gay Film Noir'

  1. Juice

    Interesting premise for a movie. It is a wonder that despite protestations about abuse in catholic schools, it seems that many movies/stories/people have this as a theme. I think that this makes me wonder if a private religious school might not be worse than a public school… Maybe just forgetting the schools scene all together, and getting an Online College Degree is a better option than any other school. Hopefully Pedro was being honest in saying it isn't an autobiography. I'm sure it's a heavy burden to bear to deal with abuse from a school leader.