Bad Education, 2004

From the Saul Bass-inspired opening credit sequence of peeling, layered billboard posters, Pedro Almodóvar evokes the densely layered cinema of Alfred Hitchchock to create a reverent, yet continuously inventive, exquisitely realized, and brilliantly modulated comic melodrama in Bad Education. Ostensibly a story about a filmmaker (Fele Martinez) suffering from a creative block (who, as the film begins has resorted to pinching potential ideas from salacious tabloid news articles) who is visited by a former schoolmate and choirboy – now a struggling actor and occasional hustler who now goes by the stage name Angel (Gael García Bernal) (and whose only experience is from an obscure, third rate acting troupe called The Bumblebees) – with a disturbingly sensational, semi-autobiographical story of his abuse in the hands of the schoolmaster Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez-Cacho), the film soon evolves into a deeply entangled tale of deception, closely guarded secrets, dubious allegiances, inscrutable motivation, and revenge. Richly (and ingeniously) told in intertwining realities of flashbacks, present day, and filmed re-enactments of Ignacio’s deeply troubled life, the film achieves a delicate balance of tension, mystery, deception, and ambiguity (Zahara’s introduction is through her performance of the song, Quizás, Quizás, Quizás). Recalling the decadence, creative process, and ambiguous and confused sexuality of Law of Desire, the film features Almodóvar’s quintessentially bold, but elegant visual refinement, lush construction, tongue-in-cheek double entendres, surreal humor, and complex pulp narrative that have come to define his exhilarating, idiosyncratic cinema.

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