Bad Education (2004)

Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Javier Cámara, Daniel Giménez Cacho,
La mala educación is a movie starring Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, and Javier Cámara. An examination on the effect of Franco-era religious schooling and sexual abuse on the lives of two longtime friends.
  • 7.4 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Pedro Almodóvar, Director:
  • Agustín Almodóvar, Producer:
10 / 10

A movie lover's dream come true.

This is a difficult film to write about. For one thing, to describe the plot would be to give away the twists and thus spoil its surprises; but for another, it's impossible to take a great work of art and put it into words. That said, here goes:

Truth be told, it was the promise of Gael Garcia Bernal (whom I've loved since "Y Tu Mama Tambien") in drag that piqued my interest in seeing "Bad Education." The only other Almodovar movie I'd seen before this was "Talk to Her," which I was on the fence about, but if Gael Garcia Bernal was involved, I was happy to give Almodovar another shot. (Interestingly, "Bad Education" has given me a new appreciation of "Talk to Her." The two films share a lot of themes -- false identity and self-creation, the willful self-deception and fantasy of falling in love, the spiritualization of aesthetic beauty -- not to mention a hypnotic use of music, an indifferent attitude towards women, and a few actors I recognized.)

Almodovar's genius in both "Bad Education" and "Talk to Her" is his ability to set the scene, stringing the audience along, lulling it into a sense of comprehension and security, and then suddenly turning the tables with a twist of such dizzying magnitude that the mind, reeling, forced to give up on trying to understand, must just relax and allow the movie to take over -- miraculously, all without leaving the audience feeling manipulated. In "Bad Education," he takes this device to breathless, upper-atmospherical levels, for with each twist, the film takes on a new genre.

It begins as a tender coming-of-age story, interspersed with boarding-school flashbacks reminiscent of such French fare as Louis Malle's "Au revoir, les enfants" and Fran?ois Truffaut's "L'argent de p?che," although I sensed a lot of Fellini in the mod outfits, feathery hairstyles, and picturesque bicycle-strewn streets. Probably the most romantic segment of the film, it alludes even to "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Henry Mancini's "Moon River" hasn't been employed so creatively since last year's "Angels in America"). Indeed, the performances are so endearing, the cinematography so warm and luminous, that this segment of "Bad Education" could easily exist as its own self-contained movie. I was fully prepared to embrace it and love it as a sincere period romance.

But without warning, the film turns itself upside down and becomes an exhilarating meta-commentary in the vein of Charlie Kaufman's "Adaptation" (complete with crocodiles). Romance turns to farce and tragedy to comedy as the self-consciously cinematic style gives way to the silliness of a movie-within-a-movie.

Unlike "Adaptation," though, "Bad Education" goes on, and in this way it retains its heart and soul. Further twists are introduced, and the movie metamorphoses into a mystery, a thriller, a dark rain-soaked noir -- by the end, I felt as though I had just lived through a hundred years of cinema history, all condensed into less than two rich, glorious hours.

So what holds it all together? The answer is Gael Garcia Bernal. He is a true movie star -- divinely beautiful, dazzlingly charismatic, with that all-important aura of mystery -- and though he virtually plays five characters as his character transforms along with the film, his strikingly calm blue-green eyes and sensual mouth provide a steady center for the madness around him. Despite the rumors of his abusive treatment on set at the hands of Almodovar, Garcia Bernal has a dignity (without which "Bad Education" would collapse under the weight of its own intelligence) that no amount of makeup, wigs, dresses, induced anorexia, or fake Spanish lisping can mask.

"Bad Education" was one of the most intense movie-going experiences I've ever had, and if its future doesn't hold critical acclaim and recognition as a classic, then there's no justice in the world.

10 / 10

All About My Father

The title "Bad Education" only hints at what Almodovar's magnificent new film is all about. While certainly the sexual abuse the boy Ignacio suffers at the hands of Father Monolo is largely the contributing factor in the way his life turns out, (the film's most telling line occurs when the boy, on realising the priest's betrayal, says that at that moment he lost his faith and his belief in God and hell, that he was no longer afraid and without fear was capable of anything), it is not, essentially, what the film is about.

Indeed, a much better, if perhaps a more blase title might have been "All About My Father", for like Almodovar's earlier masterpiece "All About My Mother" it is a film about artifice, role-play and deception. The opening credits, (a pastiche of Saul Bass with a Herrmanesque score) deliberately evokes late Hitchcock and the film recalls "Vertigo", stylistically as well as thematically, another film about someone loving someone who is not whom they appear to be, each revelation building inexorably to a denouement as layers are quite literally stripped away. In a film which. in a sense, is 'about' acting, the performances are uniformly excellent, though to be fair, Gael Garcia Bernal, (certainly the best actor of his generation), stands head and shoulders above the rest playing a variation of roles, or rather a variation of the same role. All in all this is exquisite, pertinent all-encompassing film-making that only confirms Almodovar's position in the front rank of world class directors.

7 / 10

Pederasty And Gay Explicit Relations Committed By Lustful Christian Priests!.

n 1980 Madrid, young film director Enrique Goded is looking for his next project when he receives the unexpected visit of an actor looking for work. The actor claims to be Enrique's boarding school friend and first love, Ignacio Rodriguez. Ignacio, who is using now the name ángel Andrade, has brought with him a short story titled "The Visit" hoping that Enrique would be interested in making a film out of it giving him the starring role. Enrique is intrigued since "The Visit" described their time together at the Catholic school and it also includes a fictionalized account of their reunion many years later as adults.

"The Visit" is set in 1977. It tells the story of a drag artist and transsexual called Zahara, whose birth name is Ignacio. Zahara plans to rob a drunken admirer but discovers that the man is her boyhood lover Enrique. Next she visits her old school and confronts Father Manolo, who abused her when she was a boy. She demands one million pesetas from him in exchange for halting publication of her story "The Visit". The story is set in a Catholic boarding school for boys in 1964. At the school, Ignacio, a young boy with a beautiful singing voice, is the object of lust of Father Manolo, the school principal and literature teacher. Ignacio has found his first love and cinema in the company of Enrique, a classmate. One night, Manolo discovers them together and threatens to expel Enrique. In an attempt to prevent this, Ignacio gives himself to Manolo. The priest molests Ignacio, but expels Enrique nonetheless.

Enrique wants to adapt Ignacio's story into a film, but ángel's condition is that he plays the part of Zahara, the transsexual lead. Enrique remains skeptical, for he feels that the Ignacio whom he loved and the Ignacio of today are totally different people. He drives to Galicia to Ignacio's mother and learns that the real Ignacio has been dead for four years and that the man who came to his office is really Ignacio's younger brother, Juan.

Enrique's interest is piqued, and he decides to do the film with Juan in the role of Ignacio to find out what drives Juan. Enrique and ángel start a relationship, and Enrique revises the script so that it ends with Father Manolo, whom Ignacio was trying to blackmail to get money for sex reassignment surgery, having Ignacio murdered. When the scene is shot, ángel breaks out in tears unexpectedly.

The film set is visited by Manuel Berenguer, who is the real Father Manolo, who has resigned from Church duty. Berenguer confesses to Enrique that the new ending of the film is not far from the truth: the real Ignacio blackmailed Berenguer, who somehow managed to scratch together the money but also took an interest in Ignacio's younger brother, Juan. Juan and Manuel started a relationship and after a while realized they both wanted to see Ignacio dead. Juan scored some very pure heroin, so that his brother would die by overdose after shooting up. After the crime, the relationship disintegrates; Berenguer wants to continue the relationship with Juan, but Juan is uninterested. Berenguer claims that he will never let Juan go, and Juan threatens to kill him if Berenguer continues to pursue him. Berenguer attempts to blackmail Juan for his part in the murder of Ignacio.

Enrique is shocked and not at all interested in Juan's weak vindications for what he did to his brother. Finally, before he leaves, Juan gives Enrique a piece of paper: a letter to Enrique that Ignacio was in the middle of typing when he died.

In the epilogue, it is mentioned that Enrique releases his film later and achieves great success. Despite the grief and guilt of his brother, Juan also achieves success, but was later relegated to television work. Berenguer dies in a hit-and-run (caused by Juan, who was being blackmailed by Berenguer, and thus fulfilling his promise made earlier in the film).

Rated NC-17 For Explicit Gay Content .I will never trust any priest again.

7 / 10

Sensational movie: a perfect 10

Almodovar's latest film is a tantalizing, hypnotic and sexy mixture of VERTIGO, MEMENTO and MULLHOLLAND DRIVE. It's Almodovar's meatiest and most complex script in years. Although you may be confused early on as you're trying to figure out whats going on, its all revealed later and very satisfyingly. Gael Garcia Bernal is outstanding in his multi-dimensional, multi-character performance. Alberto Iglesia's music is wonderful--a homage to Bernard Herrmann.

The film is rated NC-17, which has more to do with the MPAA Board's homophobia than anything else. Sure, its a sexy drama with elements adult plotpoints, but had the sex scenes in this film been between a man and a woman, rather than two men, this would have easily gotten an R rating. All of the sex scenes are artfully filmed (there is no frontal nudity) and even the subplot concerning a pedophile priest is handled with care.

9 / 10

a trip in disturbing storytelling; edgy and original quasi-homage to Hitchcock

Bad Education is risky film-making at its craftiest, a tightrope of innuendo, gay sex, murder, cinema, narrative, et all. Sounds like it might be pretentious, but it isn't. Almodovar's film folds into its storytelling like its the only way to go, stylistically and consciously, as if the only way to experience this is to find out where truth blends with fiction, and reverberates back again. Is the real thing as involving and melodramatic as the truth? Almodovar- contrary to what the Village Voice critic said- wisely only hints at the rampant pedophilia on hand, all we really get is that one suggestive moment with the priest and the boy as he tumbles out and cracks his head. Everything else is implied, but with such an emphasis on what more than likely happened that all we need is suggestion- anything more would be exploitive of a much larger issue than Almodovar wants to get into.

What Bad Education gets into then at its best is desire, and the paranoia surrounding desire, as well as revenge, and lustful abandon. One can find this in Hitchcock, but it's also found in the steamiest of film-noir. Appropriate then that for almost half of his screen time star Gael Garcia Bernal is in drag, practically as a femme fatale, named Zahara. Of course, she is only a fictional construct, though based on emotions and settings loosely based on true events for the character Ignacio (or is it Juan...wait, said too much, though he now wants to be called Angel), who visits his friend, Enrique, from back in Catholic school. There's a story he wants to give to his friend, soon a film deal is made, despite shady history surrounding the death of Angel's brother. Then comes the priest- no longer a priest of course- and then the story goes deeper, with what the real truth is, and while it contains the same level of heart from the characters, it's all the same melodramatic.

As well as the melodrama, Almodovar loves it as lurid and classy as possible (not to mention gay, of course, which Almodovar embraces to the point where the sex scenes carry an eroticism all their own, in spite of the NC-17 usually with only just enough shown to get the idea). But it may also be one of Almodovar's most disturbing pictures, and as it grows darker and more fatalistic in its last third one knows how deep the fissure is in the crime of passion at hand. But Almodovar, save for the experimental storytelling, like paperback novel style Citizen Kane, there's not a whole lot of messing around technical-wise, which is just fine for the actors (especially Bernal) to show off their amazing dramatic skills. What he does strive for, which he nearly gets as a great film, is the sensibility of cinema, the intoxicating power of a story told through conflict and danger, crime and (lack thereof) punishment. Hence the scene where the two boys sneak into the movie-house and the 'act' that they commit. Is it as obvious as it looks, or is there a quality to what they're watching- an old movie with Sara Montiel- that has them riled up? And what about the aspect-ratio change when going between The Visit and the 'main' narrative?

Almodovar's Bad Education is certainly not for the squeamish, and leaves a feeling that everything is left darker for a purpose. By the end no police have been involved, and everything unfolds as torrid love affairs gone awry. It's also appropriate then in The Visit that Zahara blackmails to send the story to Diario 16 on TV. The difference between this and a telanovela is simple: a telanovela would take this material as the pinnacle of camp and trash; Almodovar embraces it, enriches it, makes campy pulp into a strange art. One of the best Spanish films of the past several years. 9.5/10