Writer/director Pedro Almodóvar's dark, sexy Hitchcock homage is his best work since his Oscar-winning All About My Mother, and deepened by a sun-dappled sadness. Handsome, enigmatic Ángel (Gael García Bernal) arrives at t... more »he Spanish movie offices of director Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez) and happily proclaims that he's actually Enrique's long-lost school chum Ignacio--an announcement that is both less than convincing and more than it seems. A novice actor, Ángel pitches a semi-autobiographical screenplay in which he's determined to star, a revenge-laden reflection of the doomed love he and Enrique shared as boys before a pedophile priest cruelly intervened. The script, and the lost days it recalls, carefully unfurls into a series of brooding movies-within-movies and memories-inside-memories, which allow the sensual, multiple-role-playing Bernal to give the performance of his young career--among other things, he makes a stunningly convincing drag queen--and Almodóvar the opportunity to movingly suggest that people will pay any price to ensure that their stories are told. --Steve Wiecking« less
"This is the movie that confirms Gael Garcia Bernal's status as the most erotic male screen presence since Alain Delon doffed his shirt in "Plein Soleil." In this film he plays at least three characters, including Zahara, a drag queen, for which portrayal Pedro Almodovar, the director (who has a cameo in the film as a poolboy) has compared Bernal to Julia Roberts. Think sensuous lips. But most viewers, I believe, will prefer him as Juan, doing pushups on the floor of his brother's kitchen, or as Angel, diving into a swimming pool in his underwear. But even as Juan, in sunglasses at a museum in Valencia, Bernal may remind discriminating filmgoers of Barbara Stanwyck, in the famous grocery sequence in "Double Indemnity." Which brings me to an important point: Almodovar's film is many things--part autobiography, part exploration of sexuality--but it is above all a film noir, despite its bright colors, with Bernal as the "homme fatal." I think it works. Any fan of the genre will be familiar with its conventions: the reversals and betrayals, the characters who change names and even faces, the flash-backs and flash-forwards, the self-defeating ethical codes. Forget the Franco-era politics, if that's a stumbling block, and focus on the roller-coaster plot. And if the reappearance of the child-molesting Father Manolo as a sympathetic family man and victim of Juan's undeniable mystique bothers you, then do as the director and suspend judgment. This is topnotch cinema, by a master at the top of his form."
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 12/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gael Garcia Bernal, playing Juan/Angel/Zahara is the centerpiece, the place in which the heart of this film resides, for it is his broken damaged heart that sets the tone and the focus of Almodovar's "Bad Education" And at the core of Bernal's tour-de-force performance is his shredded psyche: broken apart by years spent plotting revenge for the drug addiction and childhood abuse of his brother, Ignacio. Juan is one of the "damaged people" of whom Tennessee Williams so often writes. And Almodovar has chosen to make Juan not only a hero but also a heroine, the femme fatale, Zahara. Almodovar, never one to be squeamish or afraid of censure, is out for blood in "Bad Education" as he slices open and excises the sexual mores in Franco-era Catholicism in which child abuse was accepted as the norm. (Unfortunately, nothing seems to have changed much) Moviemaker Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez) gets a visit one day from a man claiming to be Enrique's friend from school, Juan (Bernal) even though Enrique doesn't seem to recognize him as his Catholic school friend. Juan is very insistent that Enrique read a story he has brought with him. And it is this story that sets off a series of scenes into painful and disturbing memories about school, about love between boys, about hypocrisy among adults, about corruption in matters of the heart. Almodovar has a very keen eye for the American movies of the 1950's and "Bad Education" is drenched with the dark, foreboding, and passionate colors of a Douglas Sirk film. But this is a film which acknowledges the past but whose mindset is of the Now. Almodovar has made a thriller, a detective story but has done so with the heart of a romantic and he has used Enrique as his detective to try to solve the mystery that is Juan/Angel/Zahara. That Enrique finds out more than he bargained for is a given in an Almodovar film. That he unlocks a Pandora's Box of secrets, recriminations and corruptions and then quickly closes the lid to seal them up again signifies a filmmaker who is practicing the fine Art of showing rather than telling and explaining. "
R Rated version comes digitally censored!!!
Boston Movie Critic | Boston, MA. | 04/28/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was shocked to see digital censoring of a scene in this movie. In one scene, which was actually tame when I originally viewed it at the movies, was totally blurred digitally for about 1 full minute. This ruined the movie for me. Don't buy the R Rated version."
Tangled Tale of Exploitation, Ambition, and Revenge.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 04/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Bad Education" is writer/director Pedro Almodovar's remarkably creative comment on sexual abuse among Roman Catholic clergy, but it is far from being straightforward or confined to one theme. The film weaves a complex tale of exploitation, deceit, ambition, seduction, and blackmail that places a story within a story and shifts back and forth in time. Sixteen years after they attended school together, Ignacio Rodriguez (Gael Garcia Bernal) visits Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez), who was his closest friend when they were 10 years old. Enrique is now a famous film director in the midst of a minor creative crisis. Ignacio is an ambitious actor looking for a job, and he has brought a short story he wrote based on their childhood experiences for Enrique's consideration. The story, entitled "The Visit", tells of a female impersonator named Zahara who by chance meets his old schoolmate Enrique, whom he loved as a boy. Zahara is eager to see Enrique again, but after he has carried out an important errand: Zahara goes to the chapel at his old school to blackmail a priest, Father Manolo (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), who abused him as a boy. Enrique the director thinks the story would make a splendid film, but he soon discovers that nothing is quite as it seems.
With Gael Garcia Bernal playing both a "real" character and a fictional character that is a representation of a real character who is played by someone else; a chain of blackmail that begins in reality, continues in fiction, and then invades reality again; a fictional murder that mirrors a real one; and everything that goes around seems to come around, "Bad Education" risks being too clever for its own good at times. All of these twists and ironies are orchestrated to create structural and thematic symmetry, but they are interesting and convincing. The film's vibrant purples, oranges, reds, and teals look fantastic. Almodovar has a rare ability to make bright colors leap off the screen without being at all overbearing.
"Bad Education" gets reflexive when the characters attend a film noir marathon and declare, "It's as if all the films were talking about us." The word "noir" pops up conspicuously in another scene as well. I don't know how that was intended, but it's probably a good thing that the reference comes across as funny rather than self-conscious. That's not to deny the film's "noirness". Gael Garcia Bernal is an inspired homme fatal. And "Bad Education" is unlike other Almodovar films in that none of the characters are empathetic, except perhaps the children.
With their requisite sex, drugs, and transsexuals, Pedro Almodovar's films aren't to everyone's taste. But, for Almodovar fans, "Bad Education" is a winner. It's a pleasure to watch this twisted tale unfold. In Spanish with English subtitles.
The DVD (Columbia Tristar 2005 release): Bonus features include 2 featurettes, 2 deleted scenes, a "Photo Gallery" of poster art, and an audio commentary by writer/director Pedro Almodovar. "Red Carpet Footage from the AFI Film Festival" (18 minutes) includes some interviews intercut with film clips as well as Almodovar's introductory speech at AFI Fest. "Making of Bad Education" is just 2 minutes of unnarrated behind-the-scenes footage. The audio commentary by Pedro Almodovar is quite detailed and interesting. Almodovar provides scene-by-scene and occasionally shot-by-shot analysis of characters, story, structure, themes, and many other details. The commentary is in Spanish with English subtitles and is among the most useful audio commentaries I have found on DVD."
C. B Collins Jr. | Atlanta, GA United States | 09/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a really great film! Almodovar treats us to layers upon layers of stories and twists of plot. Everytime a new character enters the story, we see a whole new side of the story. The film also has wonderful twists of direction, for example when you realize the scenes of the drag queen robbing the church are part of a movie, starring one of the characters acting as himself, but who actually is his brother. SOund convoluted? It certainly is and you will enjoy trying to figure out this dark film.
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."