Friday, February 25, 2005

Bad Education

Bad Education (Director: Pedro Almodovar)

Spanish director Almodovar is one of the most celebrated foreign filmmakers. The other films I've seen of his include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Talk to Her (a film I placed 2nd on my 2002 Best List). He's also known for Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, All About My Mother, and a couple of other vaguely familiar titles. This is a 2004 film.

Bad Education will immediately turn people away for having male transvestites and homosexuality, but they are mere details in what is a really good film. It begins with childhood friends/first loves Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Enrique (Fele Martinez). Ignacio has a story for hopeful filmmaker Enrique to adapt into a movie based on his life. He hands over a script that Enrique reads, which we see as a film-within-a-film. We see Ignacio turn into Angel, a cross-dresser who is down on his luck and steals from tricks, ultimately stealing from a church where he used to get a Catholic education--and well, we all know what comes to mind when we think of little boys in Catholic churches.

Ignacio wants to act in the film, and when told that he might not get the part (mainly because of the personal history involved between the two), doesn't want the movie made. Eventually, amends are made, and the film begins to realize a bigger world, a backstory we didn't get. Characters we once saw as "real-life" turn out to be actors portraying those characters, and then the real people on which those characters have been based turn up and start giving us the real story. Fact and fiction blur, and it's almost De Palma-esque in its narrative, a movie that has led you down a certain path and slightly pulls the rug out--making you re-consider what you have just seen. In this way, it's the perfect movie for multiple viewings, because you've been lied to in many ways during the early going.

A film like this deserves to be studied and philosophized about. It's an experiment into viewer participation in a film. We go into most films reasonably expecting the story we are watching to be the truth, but makes the viewer think about other perspectives. If you can get beyond an early shock sequence of male-on-male action, you'll be able to see a truly well-constructed tale, and one that becomes very tactful with its sexuality. The movie is a tease through-and-through.


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