A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar, 2004)

In the middle of Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education, two men go into a theater that's holding a film noir festival. When they come out later, one says, "I kept having the feeling those films were about us." Indeed, if Almodóvar's movie is inspired by anything, it's film noir, but filtered through the Technicolor movies made by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s. The score by Alberto Iglesias often echoes the melancholy longing of Bernard Herrmann's music for Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958). The intricate plot for Bad Education begins when a young man (Gael García Bernal) comes to the offices of film director Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez) and identifies himself as Goded's old school friend Ignacio Rodriguez. He doesn't call himself Ignacio anymore, he says. Instead, he goes by his stage name, Ángel Andrade, and he's hoping that Goded will cast him in his next film. Goded is more than surprised to see his old schoolmate -- in fact, he tells his assistant and current lover, Martín (Juan Fernández), Ignacio was his first love -- but he's currently experiencing a creative block and isn't hiring anyone now. So the actor leaves Goded a manuscript of a story he has written. Part of it, he says, is about their school days, and the rest is fiction based on what he thinks might have happened when they grew up. Goded reads the manuscript and is so impressed by the story it tells that he is determined to film it. And so begins an intricate film about memory, imagination, deception, betrayal, obsession, and revenge that centers on a pedophile priest's molestation of his young students. Bad Education was originally given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America for "explicit sexual content," but I suspect it was mostly because the sexual content involves two men. The rating was eventually reduced to R. The performance by García Bernal is spectacular: He manages several identities while retaining the core essential to all of them. Like most Almodóvar films, Bad Education is alive with bright primary colors -- the cinematography is by José Luis Alcaine, the art direction by Antxón Gómez, and the set decoration by Pilar Revuelta, with costumes designed by Paco Delgado and Jean-Paul Gaultier -- but the brightness only serves to heighten the shadows.  

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