The Contradictory Revelations of Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education” (by Peter Brunette, May 13, 2004) Cannes coverage presented by the Sundance Channel’s Anatomy of a Scene

The 57th edition of the Cannes Film Festival opened Wednesday night with Pedro Almodovar’s latest, the narratively inventive but emotionally tepid “La Mala Educacion” (Bad Education). While always watchable — and a qualitative quantum leap over last year’s fest opener, the ghastly French costume drama
“Fanfan La Tulipe” — the Spanish filmmaker’s most recent effort comes nowhere near the heights of recent triumphs like “All About My Mother” and “Talk to Her.” Mexican dreamboat and rising international star Gael Garcia Bernal, who’s at the film’s center, is by far the best thing about it, but after a
while even his seductive smile becomes tiring. Following the promising Hitchcockian opening credits (which so thrillingly recall the Saul Bass/Bernard Herrmann collaboration in such films as “Psycho” and “North By Northwest”), and an occasionally interesting set-up of the characters and situation, the film heads resolutely downhill.

Almodovar once again expertly works his trademark territory — the interplay of gender and sexuality, delivered in the simultaneously exploited and critiqued generic form of melodrama — but, as with the American scriptwriter Charlie
Kaufman’s latest films, here the director has mostly marshalled his talent toward the elaboration of a plot with a mind-boggling (but, unfortunately, not heart-boggling) series of Brechtian twists and turns. The central story concerns a promising love affair between two young boys at a boarding school, an affair that is doomed by the machinations of a pedophiliac priest named Father Manolo (Daniel Gimenez-Cacho).

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