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(Apr 12, 2005)
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From two-time Academy Award(r)-winner Pedro Almodovar (2002 Best Original Screenplay, Talk to Her, 2000 Best Foreign Language Film, All About My Mother) comes BAD EDUCATION, an outrageous tale of desire, revenge and murder. Filmmaker Enrique (Fele Martínez) gets a visit from an aspiring actor claiming to be his old school friend Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mama Tambien), who has written a story about their traumatic childhood spent at Catholic school. In the story, adrag performer known as Zahara (also played by Bernal) attempts to blackmail a predatory priest by exposing their scandalous past. The tale provides the inspiration for Enrique¹s next film. But when the villainous priest from their school days arrives on to tell his own version of the events, thetruth is wilder than anything anyone could have imagined. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves, "Gael Garcia Bernal is dynamite!" and calls the film "a rapturous masterwork!"
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So what is it about? I have to say that I think the film is about becoming different people to manipulate and survive. Yet, Almodovar also seems to be warning us that when someone becomes what we want, we should probably suspect blackmail and manipulation. If it is too good to be true, it probably isn't true.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays an actor, who gets to play himself, but actually it is his brother, whom he kills in reality and then plays in the movies. To move ahead he is 'seduced' by an ex-priest who years before molested his older brother. Now why would a beautiful young man film his older middle-aged trick during lovemaking, especially his face, unless it was to blackmail him later?
Gradually we see that Juan, the actor, becomes the lover of a famous director to win a role in a movie. However, the director, Enrique Godel, is so used to manipulating and using others that he has little trouble kicking out Juan in the end. Even though we see Godel having sex with Juan, we are still not convinced he is gay - he is too slippery to catch.
Almodovar realizes that to reinvent ourselves, we require a story, but just as important, to be manipulated, blackmailed, and exploited, you must fall into that story also. Pretty people create dangerous territory.
This is one of Pedro Almodovar's best films. It is also one of his most personal films, because elements within the film are autobiographical in nature. This film is told in a complicated narrative structure, which holds the audiences attention. The story is about Enrique and Ignacio, two childhood friends at a Catholic school who fall in love with one another. However, the two boys are forced apart when the pedophilic priest has Enrique expelled, in order to continue his sexual abuse of Ignacio.
Years later, Enrique is now a successful filmmaker who is looking for a new project. One day, a man claiming to be Ignacio shows up at his door with a screenplay entitled The Visit. He says that the screenplay is partly based on their childhood, and it contains a supposedly fictional sub-plot in which the character based on Ignacio blackmails the priest for a million dollars. Enrique decides to take on the project, but suspicions are aroused when circumstances cause him to doubt whether the man claiming to be Ignacio is really who he says he is. From here on, the film delves into a film noir mystery, all the while going back to the "film within a film" The Visit.
Bad Education is a film that deals with the consequences of abuse, both physical and emotional - and how the victims carry the burden of that abuse for the rest of their lives. It is not an easy film to watch, nor should it be. The realities presented in this film are not sugar coated for the audience, and this admirable on Almodovar's part.
The acting and direction are amazing here. Gael Garcia Bernal delivers an Oscar worthy performance as Ignacio/Angel/Juan. Fele Martinez is equally impressive as Enrique, and effectively conveys the emotions that his character experiences. Almodovar proves once again that he is a master of the medium, and the music is amazing. Once again, if you are easily offended, the NC-17 rating should be warning enough.
Rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content. 112 minutes.