Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez.
Two boys, abused by a priest in a parochial school, are reunited some two decades later. Enrique (Fele Martinez) is an acclaimed film director, while Ignacio (Mexican heart throb Gael Garcia Bernal, recently seen as the young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries) is a transvestite who has written a film script based on their experiences as young boys. As boys, Ignacio and Enrique found solace from the constant abuse in the local cinema, where the black and white noir adventures provided them with refuge from their misery, and obviously shaped their adult lives. Enrique recognises many of the events from the past, and wants to film the script. However, Ignacio, who now works as a drag queen, insists on playing the lead role. But as Enrique probes into Ignacio’s background he uncovers some startling truths and deeper mysteries that are more intriguing than the events of the film itself.
Controversial and colourful Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s latest film explores many themes and issues that are familiar to his work – questions of sexuality, identity, the past – which hint at the semi-autobiographical. Many may feel that, after the cinematic heights of his previous films All About My Mother and Talk To Her, Bad Education is a return to the Almodovar of old, more concerned with shock value than true insights into the human condition. There is some evidence of that in the multi-layered storyline, which includes child molestation, blackmail, gay sexual politics, gender confusion, and a Hitchcockian touch of murder and blackmail thrown in for good measure.
Almodovar also cleverly uses a film-within-a-film scenario to flesh out the details about his two central characters and their relationship with the paedophile priest from the past. Almodovar’s direction is as flashy and gaudy as ever, and this is an audacious and dazzling piece of cinema. The shifting time frames and multiple narrative perspectives are seamlessly integrated, although the complex structure means that audiences have to pay attention and do some of the work themselves.
Bernal delivers a superb performance in a complex dual role, but it is the strong, subtle performance of Martinez that really holds the film together.