Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bad Education - Reality blends with Role Playing

Gael Garcia Bernal and Pedro Almodovar seem a lethal combination of performance and filmmaking. Picking up this DVD from the library was a no brainer. 'Bad Education', a Spanish language neo-noir, from acclaimed filmmaker Almodovar whose 'All about my Mother ' and 'Talk to Her' have picked up Oscars earlier, is set in three time periods. The present is 1980s Madrid where filmmaker Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez) is looking for a script to motivate him for his next. He gets a visit from a friend from his childhood, Ignacio, now an actor who goes by the screen name of Angel. Ignacio hands Enrique a script to read, which he says is the story of their childhood.

Hereon, we inhabit the script's world, where a transvestite singer, Zahara resorts to blackmailing a catholic priest for the childhood molestation of her brother, Ignacio at a catholic school. The movie takes us in to the mid sixties, to the childhood days of Ignacio and Enrique at the catholic school. What transpires during their childhood, its devastating effect on one of the character's life forms the story which jumps to present day 1980 and then goes back to a few years earlier for the denouement. What is the truth and how much can we believe our eyes.

This is textbook noir cinema...the mysterious element prone to melodrama, the lighting in its colorful yet subdued hues, the femme fatale here in the garb of a transvestite, the small town settings of the film and of course the crime or should we say the plural of. The surreal blending of reality and role-play, mixed with the adage 'nothing is as it seems', the identity puzzle game, gives it a Hitchcockian feel. Think Vertigo!

Gael Garcia Bernal, a delightful actor whose 'Amores Perros' and 'Y tu mama tambien', both mexican movies, I have relished watching, forms the best of the viewing experience here. His enactment of three central characters (he plays Ignacio, the transvestite Zahara and another character which is a big reveal) are pitch perfect. He is especially wonderful as Zahara. Look for the body language, the slight nuances in the expressions while inhabiting that role.

There is then the matter of childhood molestation by a priest in a catholic school. It shocks but the fact that it exists is not wholly unknown. What is brutal, is the effect it has on the psyche of the victim. The loss of innocence and irreversible damage it causes. Also notable, is that the priest, even in performing the vile deeds, is not portrayed wholly as a villain. He is a deeply flawed man who knows his own evil doings, even makes an effort to change his life, but his passion makes him succumb yet again to the guilty pleasures of the flesh. The movie has been given a rating of NC-17 taking into account the numerous explicit scenes which are homosexual, transsexual in nature.

Tread into Almodovar's world, this is said to be his most personal work, semi autobiographical, if you have a sense of adventure, aren't easily scandalized and prepare for a ride where nothing is as it seems. Enjoy the quirky, almost schizophrenic nature of this film. And when it ends, try to fit in all the pieces, every last bit. I am still trying to figure that one out.

Available on DVD

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