Bad Education (la Mala Educacion)

on May 12, 2004 by Richard Mowe
Iberian icon Pedro Almodovar has veered wildly from the kitschy to the outrageous. Now, five years after winning his Oscar for "All About My Mother," he returns to his favorite obsessions in his 15th feature, "Bad Education," which opened this year's Cannes Film Festival (out of competition).

At the outset we're in Madrid in the 1980s, where a young gay director (Fele Martinez) is seeking inspiration. A young man (Gael Garcia Bernal) pays him a visit claiming to be a school friend--and a boyhood love. He leaves his a script based on their youthful experiences in the 60s, which involve Father Manolo, the school principal and their literature teacher. The three characters meet again at the end of the '70s and in the '80s, and on each occasion they learn more about the lives and deaths of those closest to them. The director flits back and forth as he pieces together the segments of the jigsaw. Nothing is as appears on the surface. Although not directly autobiographical, the material clearly is based on the director's personal view of the period.

Controversially dealing with homosexuality in the priesthood and starring the hot talent from "Amores Perros" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien," Gael Garcia Bernal, in several guises (among them a femme fatale), "Bad Education" emerges as a heady mix of Franco-era repression, gay relationships and religious education all wrapped up in some of the conventions of film noir. It is populated by the Almodovar stock in trade of transvestites, scheming actors and pederast priests. It is all accomplished with typical style and flamboyance, ensuring that anyone who flocked to his Academy Award winner as well as the most recent "Talk to Her" will not feel short-changed, while Bernal's manipulative incarnations ensure his place in the pantheon of actors to watch. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez and Javier Camara. Directed and written by Pedro Almodovar. Produced by Agustin Almodovar and Esther Garcia. Drama. Spanish-language; subtitled. A Sony Classics release. Rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content. Running time 104min

Tags: Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Javier Camara, Directed, written by Pedro Almodovar, Produced by Agustin Almodovar, Esther Garcia, Sony Classics, Drama

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