Diagnostico confirmado: Pete Baran es un nabazo. Such was the suggestion the last time I reviewed an Almod’var film, Talk to Her. And now I am back at the nabazo coalface, having seen La Mala Educaci’n(Bad Education). Will Argentinean youths be scoffing at my naive, western centric rush to canonise the giant of Spanish film-making. Probably.
First up though, I can already say that Bad Education will not be my film of the year. It is a fun puzzle, an exciting self-referential thriller but is emotionally inert. Anyone expecting to be put through the same kind of moral wringer that Talk To Her did would go away unsatisfied. Anyone looking for a thoroughly enjoyable two hours in the cinema would be on the right track. And while the film is surprisingly distant from its audience, it is probably the film I have already discussed more than any other I have seen this year. Almod’var shows he can do all that Charlie Kaufmann script trickery, whilst still engaging us in a great story.
So why all this guff about emotion? Partially due to Talk To Her and All About My Mother were such emotional films. But possibly more because the general consensus has been that Bad Education is a partially autobiographical film. From an autobiography point of view, it looks like Almod’var is playing the same game that Woody Allen did with Deconstructing Harry. Yes, there may be some superficial characteristics between Almod’var and the lead film-maker Enrique. But it pushes credulity to think that he would be involved in such a real life murder, so why should we attribute anything more than cosmetic comparisons between the character and director? The lack of emotional engagement comes from the obscuring of character motivation, it is clear that this is Almodovar’s version of a noir thriller, a day-glo noir but one where no character can be trusted.
As an aside, my companion noticed a surprisingly large number of single men of a certain age and a certain rainproof attire in the cinema. We wondered if this was a traditional audience for an Almod’var or if the reviews, the poster and seeming subject matter had dragged out a paedophile audience. If so they will be sorely disappointed. The most visual, and central plot of the film revolving around the abuse of the leads as children in catholic school is almost presented as an aside. The morality of this situation as well could not be any less clear. As Gael Garc’a Bernal, (compelling in the lead and looking good as a trannie) says in one of the final scenes ‘You don’t love a ten year old boy. You abuse him, molest him.’ Raincoat audience take note.