Bad Education (La Mala Educacion)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/05/2004


Four out of Five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Brightly coloured, beautifully acted film that sees Almodovar on top of his game – this is a personal project that had been ten years in the making; it was worth the wait.

Clearly, Pedro Almodovar has had enough of films about women for a while. After making his name with screwball comedies such as Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown and moving into sophisticated emotional melodramas such as All About My Mother, his last film, Talk To Her had two female characters who spent most of the film in a coma and now his latest, Bad Education, has no female characters at all. Well, unless you count drag queens…

Impressive Multi-Layered Structure

The film has an impressive, multi-layered structure that is both playful and emotionally revealing (a little bit like the ‘blindfold’ of the black and white fantasy sequence in Talk To Her) – it uses flashbacks, letters, a film within a film and echoes of other classic films to brilliant effect.

Mexican heart-throb Gael Garcia Bernal (from Amores Perros) plays Ignacio, who comes to Madrid in the 1980s to visit his old school friend Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez). Enrique is now a successful film-maker (and therefore effectively Almodovar’s alter ego) and Ignacio leaves him a script, partly based on their lives at school and their abuse at the hands of Father Manolo (Cacho).

The script intrigues Enrique so much that he decides to make the film and as it goes into production, more and more secrets come to light.

Terrific Performances

Gael Garcia Bernal is terrific in a role which requires him to play several different versions of one character, including a show-stopping turn as Zahara, a female impersonator with an act based on Spanish movie star Sara Montiel (who appears in film clips) and who is, essentially, the femme fatale of the movie.

The script also cleverly keeps you guessing as to Ignacio’s true motives. Martinez is also good, though his character is more of a passive observer. There’s also a fabulous supporting turn by Almodovar favourite Javier Camara (from Talk To Her), though sadly he’s only in a couple of scenes as Zahara’s best friend (also a drag queen).

There are several great scenes in the film – the school flashback sequence is especially moving, particularly the ‘Moon River’ scene. There are also some delightful film jokes, such as when two would-be murderers emerge from a film noir screening and one whispers, “It’s as if the characters were talking about us!”

In addition, the film features a fabulous score by Alberto Iglesias and glorious, richly coloured cinematography courtesy of Jose Luis Alcaine).

In short, Bad Education shows Almodovar giving full reign to his passions and fantasies, blending fiction, cinema and memories from his own childhood to create a delightfully twisty (and twisted) tale. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Bad Education (La Mala Educacion)
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Content updated: 09/12/2019 09:29

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