BEST FILMS OF THE DECADE #15

BAD EDUCATION (2004)

 

The director Pedro Almodovar loves the movies, no doubt about it.  “Bad Education” starts with Hitchcock-like credits in the vein of Saul Bass; references to American film noir abound; and like an earlier Spanish master, Luis Buñuel —obviously an Almodovar’s inspiration—there is the touch of the surreal along with a good dose of anti-clericalism and anti-church.

 

The story concerns two young boys who have been abused by a priest in boarding school—thus the title—resulting in their ruined lives. The convoluted plot disturbs, enthralls, titillates and tickles, what with its flashbacks, character transformations, and a story combining fiction and reality, past and present, in such a way that a single viewing may not do it justice. 

 

One of the boys writes a screenplay about his time in the Catholic boarding school.  He tries to get the second boy, now a hot shot movie director, to turn it into a film.  Eventually he does.  With dire results.

 

As with Buñuel, the layering of Almodovar’s story has much to do with a way of looking at events, the obsessive contrasts that give us pause, cause us to rethink what we’ve just witnessed.  We can’t be sure, for example, how true the childhood events in the boarding school are, since they are distilled through the eyes of the now grown man who, after all, is trying to get his script made into a film. 

 

The acting is superb, with Gael Garcia Bernal (“The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien”) playing in effect three roles with astonishing skill and feeling.

 

This movie has received an NC-17 rating, the harshest rating available for a non-pornographic film.  There is no overt on-screen sex, no nudity, a bit of foul language.  But it is Almodovar’s ability to imply all the sex stuff that must have gotten the rating board squirming.

 

This is one movie that begs for a second viewing.

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