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Bad Education

La Inteligente película

A young, talented film director struggles to come up with an idea for his next film. Scouring tabloids and magazines for the seed of a story, an old friend from his childhood pays a visit. Little does the talented Enrique Goded realize the story he so desperately sought has just walked in the door in the form of his unrecognizable childhood friend, Ignacio Rodriguez.

The return of Ignacio (who prefers to be called 'Angel' now) is but one of many surprises in Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education. Almodovar's latest is an intriguing film noir that spans roughly three decades and includes numerous plot twists. Almodovar deftly constructs a film that could have collapsed under the weight of its complexity.

While not necessarily autobiographical (according to Almodovar), it's hard not to believe that much of Bad Education stemmed at least partially from Almodovar's own experiences. Pedro lived in the areas captured on film during the time periods spanned (1964, 1980, and 1977). Similarly, Almodovar was educated by priests as were young Ignacio and Enrique.

The 'bad' education Ignacio and Enrique received as children can largely be attributed to the pedophiliac Father Manolo who had a crush on Ignacio and was quick to quash the fledgling romance that blossomed between Ignacio and Enrique. Threatened by Ignacio's new paramour, Father Manolo expels Enrique.

While pedophilia is not the sole focus of Bad Education, it does reside at the nucleus of the film. Bad Education is a dark film. Almodovar digs into some serious subject matter. Some viewers will likely be turned off by the dark tone of the film. There is little room for hope and optimism in the world Ignacio and Enrique occupy.

Almodovar brilliantly actualizes the darkness of the subject matter in employing dark, shadowy lighting during the scenes in which Ignacio and Enrique are discovered by Father Manolo and Ignacio's confrontation of Manolo later in the film. Likewise, as Enrique discovers the truth about Ignacio and travels further into an unfolding mystery, lighting is dim and muted.

Far from muted are the performances of the principal cast. Particularly compelling is the dynamic performance of Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien). Bernal puts forth a vibrant performance as Ignacio (aka-Angel). Ignacio is a damaged and conflicted character who is clearly breasting his cards for most of the film. Bernal does an excellent job of conveying the internal conflict Ignacio is dealing with and brings an air of mystery to the character.

Fele Martinez's (Talk To Her) performance as Enrique is also commendable. Enrique truly comes to life in the latter stages as he attempts to penetrate (both literally and figuratively) Ignacio/Angel's air of mystery. Martinez skillfully conveys both a distrust and fascination with the enigmatic Angel.

Almodovar does an excellent job of creating a film that captures much of the dark elements of film noir. Betrayal, suspicion, deception, exploitation, and a femme fatale (OK…it's a guy in drag, but the archetype is still applicable) round out an intriguing homage to noir.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5