Secrets and Seduction

BAD EDUCATION

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Directed by: Pedro Almodovar

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Daniel Giminez Cacho, Raul Garcia Forneiro, Nacho Perez

Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education is a film noir inspired meditation on love, sex, drugs and identities. It is the story of two men in Spain, Enrique( Fele Martinez), a film director, and Ignacio (the gorgeous rising Spanish star Gael Garcia Bernal), an aspiring actor and writer, who meet again in the 1980s, 20 years after they attended a Catholic school together as children in the 1960s. As childhood friends and emerging lovers they were separated by an abusive and jealous priest, and Enrique is sent away to another school.

Twenty years on, Ignacio appears at Enrique’s door, now a successful film director and presents him with a story, entitled the Visit. Ignacio urges Enrique to make this story into a film, with him as the main star. After reading the Visit, Enrique realizes that the story tells of their boyhood romance and subsequent abuse and separation at the hands of the Catholic priest.

However, if there was a straightforward storyline, it would not be an Almodovar film, for nothing is straight forward, not to mention any straight characters. I am not going to reveal more than that the film takes on many interesting twists and turns when Enrique embarks on an investigation into Ignacio, and several secrets are revealed, not to mention drag tendencies, drugs, blackmail and even murder!

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Almodovar’s casual almost indifferent treatment of drugs, gay sex and sexual identities as part of everyday life marks him as a distinctly European and Spanish director, who fortunately has never gone mainstream, falling prey to the prudish restrictions of Hollywood. For all these aspects are naturally part of a storyline which weaves truth and fantasy, reality and desire into a film noir story of hidden identities, literary ambitions and unrequited love, magnetically sustained by Bernal and Martinez ‘s strong central performances.

The most memorable scene in the film is the swimming pool scene, where after a night out clubbing, a suspicious, yet amorous Enrique invites Ignacio back to his opulent Madrid home for an early morning swim, with a view of seduction. The scene is done with such tantalizing style, covering the best parts of both actors undressing and diving into the pool, in which a lot can be said for a pair of white briefs.

Almodovar’s trademark use of primary colours, especially yellows, greens and reds in set and costume design, provides a vibrant backdrop to his zany characters in Bad Education while conveying a wonderful sense of Spain being a liberated country, filled with a bright sexual honesty and freedom.

A clever, well acted, stylish and coquettishly directed film, which will keep any gay audience riveted if not aroused. Highly recommended viewing for all Almodovar fans who are willing to add Bad Education to their retro Spanish film collection.

 

 

 

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