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A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
In the early 60s, two boys - Ignacio and Enrique - discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school. Father Manolo, the school principal and Literature teacher, both witnesses and takes part in these discoveries. The three characters come against one another twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980. These meetings are set to change the life and death of some of them. Written by
Since 'Hable con ella' ('Talk to her', for which my summary line was 'Almodovar mellowing?') which some consider Almodovar's best, his fans have been looking forward to his next one with great expectation but also some apprehension as to how could he possibly tope it, in the sheer ingenious creativity, if nothing else. Bound for Cannes release, Bad Education soon demonstrated that the apprehension is not unfounded. It is, after all, not easy to surpass the achievement of Hanle con ella. Undoubtedly still Almodovar, Bad Education however is Almodovar melodrama, a little short of Almodovar masterpiece.
The film opens with attention grabbing, definitive music (regardless of what mood) that is Almodovar's hallmark. Similarly, we see the inimitable Almodovar feuding colours. Homosexuality and fetishism you'll almost always expect in an Almodovar film but there is less extreme perversity and violence compared with some of his other pictures.
And here comes the plot. The story of the young altar boys is told in a manuscript of a book entitled 'The Visit', which is used by one of the grown-up boys Ignacio, now a transvestite called Zahara, as a tool for blackmailing Father Manolo. But wait, all this is just in a screenplay. The story of Father Manolo and the altar boys however is real. The real Ignacio is the screenplay writer, who is trying to get Enrique the film director, another grown-up altar boy, to produce the film. But wait again, Ignacio doesn't want to be called Ignacio, claiming that he is now a fully transformed person called Angel, an actor trying very hard to get to play the part Zahara. Having fun yet? There's more. Enrique becomes suspicious if Ignacio/Angel is really the Ignacio he knew as a kid, and embarks on an investigation. Meanwhile, Father Monolo jumps out of the screenplay, materialising as a real person. And all these stories within stories are told jumping back and forth between past and present, fiction and reality. Enough? There's more, a lot more.
In the end, Bad Education, while enormously entertaining, stops at being just that instead of moving further into the realm of depth of emotion and breadth of creativity we see in Talk to Her and All About Mother. However, in addition to the entertainment, there is one particularly bright spot, one Gael Garcia Bernal (playing Angel and all the rest of them) who first served notice in the brilliant Mexican film Amores perros (2000) that he has to be reckoned with. I just can't wait to see him play Cuban revolutionary icon 'Che' Geuvara in Motorcycle Diaries (2004).
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