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Thread: Bad Education (aka La Mala Educación) (2004) (Spain)

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    Bad Education (aka La Mala Educación) (2004) (Spain)

    The official website is here
    http://www.sonyclassics.com/badeducation/

    What I like?
    - The plot. Although the idea of "film within film" is NOT new, the movie captivates one's attention.
    - Belying the obvious plot and "film within film", it has a more complex message of FACT versus FICTION. In our lives, how much is real and how much is fiction? How much is what we want to believe, what we want others to believe, and what others want us to believe.
    ** In fact, even when the movie/story ends, why don't we (as audience) question the "truth" (if any) of the "final" story???
    - The movie does NOT judge its characters. Instead, you can choose who to like and who to hate ... is anyone truly hateful or truly likeable?
    - The performance by Gael. ;)
    - The soundtrack.

    What I thought could be better?
    - The movie title should really be "THE VISIT" (i.e., Las Visitas). In the screenplay, EVERY SINGLE VISIT is important. Not just the "visit" to the old school. Some may feel that there is only 1 or 2 visits ... BUT in my humble opinion, there are more than 3 visits, 4 visits, etc ... go figure that ... In addition, it also suggests to the audience it might be the director's semi-autobiography ...
    ** I really don't like the title BAD EDUCATION. It does NOT capture the essence of the ENTIRE movie.
    - Really pardon me, but I thought the young Ignacio was not very convincing ... and he has quite substantial screen time.

    CONCLUSION:
    - It can be a very complex film if you are willing to think beyond the obvious plot. But of course, at times, we might credit the movie more than what the director has intended.

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    Re: Bad Education (aka La Mala Educación) (2004) (Spain)

    I could write reams of comments and observations about La Mala Educacion. I'll limit myself to a few that relate to something you've written. I'm fond of this type of interactive criticism built out of rather discrete exchanges within a community of cinephiles (if I may so label this site's users). I hope the film generates vigorous participation and lively discussion. Warning: This Must-See film contains elements of mystery. Comments below may reveal too much for those who haven't seen it.

    Originally posted by hengcs
    What I like?- The plot. Although the idea of "film within film" is NOT new, the movie captivates one's attention.Belying the obvious plot and "film within film", it has a more complex message of FACT versus FICTION.

    With 25 years of experience, Almodovar has achieved a formal command few possess. He juggles at least three time periods: Mid-60s (when Franco and the Church were most powerful); 1977, when "La Movida" (the anything-goes cultural movement that followed the end of the dictatorship) was rapidly changing Spanish society; and 1980, the film's present (the year Almodovar released the zany Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton). There are different combinations of reality and fiction, both from more than one point of view. Notice that the scenes set in the mid-60s (which turn out to be the film-within-the film La Visita), may differ from the lines from the script that we hear in voice-over.
    What is remarkable is that such complexities are never confounding or confusing to the viewer. The temporal transitions and the different views of reality are handled adroitly by a mature filmmaker and his collaborators.

    In fact, even when the movie/story ends, why don't we (as audience) question the "truth" (if any) of the "final" story?

    This could take us to very interesting places if you're willing to get into specifics.

    The movie does NOT judge its characters. Instead, you can choose who to like and who to hate ... is anyone truly hateful or truly likeable?

    Few would sympathize with Padre Manolo's assistant, the fat priest who apparently is in charge of discipline (the child Ignacio alludes to his being violent). Even though he only appears in La Visita, we assume he is a character based on a real person.

    Few (if any) would hate Paquita (Javier Camara), the affable transvestite in the scenes set in 1977, who is a good friend to Zahara and the source of most of La Mala Educacion's humor.

    Enrique, the director (Fele Martinez), is for the most part presented as a person of integrity.

    Padre Manolo is a hypocritical character who takes advantage of his position of power to force 10 year olds into sexual activity. You can argue that he is a prisoner of his desires, but I don't buy it as an excuse. The film doesn't attempt to excuse his transgressions. The final scenes render the now-lay Manolo as truly despicable.

    Juan is probably the most hate-worthy character in La Mala Educacion. His going along with the murder plot is explained by Ignacio's stealing Granny's pension, and a crucial line of dialogue: "Do you know what is like to live in a small town with a transvestite queen as your brother?". I'd say the dude is still detestable.

    The soundtrack.
    The great pieces, both sung ("Moon River", "Quizas, quizas, quizas",etc.) and overheard, and a masterful music score by the great Alberto Iglesias. The composer is responsible for scoring Almodovar's last five films and the last six directed by Julio Medem (Lovers of the Artic Circle, Sex and Lucia).

    What I thought could be better?The movie title should really be "THE VISIT" (i.e., Las Visitas).EVERY SINGLE VISIT is important. I really don't like the title BAD EDUCATION. It does NOT capture the essence of the ENTIRE movie.

    The title implies that Almodovar blames Padre Manolo's actions, and by extension a Catholic education, for the tragic life experienced by Ignacio. It serves as an indictment. It's a more specific title than La Visita. Anyway, the title of the film had to differ, by necessity, from the title of the film-within-the-film.

    Really pardon me, but I thought the young Ignacio was not very convincing ... and he has quite substantial screen time.

    I disagree, but this is entirely a matter of subjective opinion. I thought young Nacho Perez was very effective in the role.

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    Re: Re: Bad Education (aka La Mala Educación) (2004) (Spain)

    * MAJOR SPOILERS *

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by oscar jubis
    This could take us to very interesting places if you're willing to get into specifics.
    e.g.,
    (i) What makes the audience so sure that the priest is telling the truth about Juan having a role in the murder? Could it be merely out of spite because Juan left him, or because he wanted Juan to leave Enrique, or simply to ruin Juan's career, etc?
    (ii) Their childhood days are told mainly in the film within film (which is WRITTEN by Ignacio but also EDITED by Enrique), so how much is truth, and how much is fiction is again unknown. Is it what Ignacio and Enrique wanted us to believe happened?


    I wrote
    The movie does NOT judge its characters. Instead, you can choose who to like and who to hate ... is anyone truly hateful or truly likeable?

    Oscar wrote
    ... Enrique, the director (Fele Martinez), is for the most part presented as a person of integrity.
    ... Padre Manolo is a hypocritical character who takes advantage of his position of power to force 10 year olds into sexual activity.
    ... Juan is probably the most hate-worthy character ... "Do you know what is like to live in a small town with a transvestite queen as your brother?" I'd say the dude is still detestable.
    ... Few would sympathize with Padre Manolo's assistant, the fat priest ...
    ... Few (if any) would hate Paquita (Javier Camara) ...


    I am NOT defending the righteousness of any acts, but I am simply corroborating my case of the script trying to make things more "grey" ...

    -- Enrique is NOT consistently noble, he has abused his POWER as a director to sleep with the actor. (Doesn't this sound familiar? Hollywood? Corporations? etc)

    -- Padre is the villain. ok ok.
    (i) But is he also a victim when he is kind of being extorted a million by Ignacio?
    (ii) Also, is he doing some good (at least to Ignacio and Enrique) by telling what happened? (i.e., if he is telling the truth).
    (iii) Yes, he is despicable, but NOTE how the movie CRAFTED very cunningly the scene when Ignacio GAVE IN. (ok, maybe the director or script writer did NOT write that intentionally, and I credit the script too much, but I noted the scene.) It was Ignacio who "ASKED" for the abuse in exchange for Enrique's pardon. ok ok. I am not here to encourage abuse, but I am saying it is VERY SLY of the director to CRAFT it that way.

    -- Now to Juan, we are really in NO position to judge him. Why? History has informed that there will be some who like them and some who hate them (e.g., Peron in Evita, was she unscrupulous or just learning the "art of survival").
    "Do you know what is like to live in a small town with a transvestite queen as your brother?" Well, only those who are in the dilemma,, living at THAT TIME and PLACE would know how it is like ...
    Now more examples from the movie
    (i) Juan has been used/abused by Enrique too, even though Enrique knew that Juan was NOT Ignacio.
    (ii) Juan had to "take care" of Ignacio (asked by his mother), but Ignacio did NOT care much about Juan
    (iii) At the end, the priest kept pestering/stalking Juan ... etc

    -- I actually did NOT want to discuss the fat priest because he had too few scenes to talk about. But if you insist, note that all of his "evil deeds" (that are depicted in the movie) are to PROTECT the priest, NOT himself. You can blame him on bad deeds, but he is really "loyal and protective" to the priest or maybe the reputation of the church?!

    -- I also did NOT want to discuss about Paquita because she also had too few scenes. But if you insist, isn't Paquita and Zahara GUILTY of STEALING bikes and money from drunk guys?


    I wrote
    What I thought could be better?The movie title should really be "THE VISIT" (i.e., Las Visitas).

    Oscar wrote
    The title implies that Almodovar blames Padre Manolo's actions, and by extension a Catholic education, for the tragic life experienced by Ignacio. It serves as an indictment. It's a more specific title than La Visita. Anyway, the title of the film had to differ, by necessity, from the title of the film-within-the-film.

    -- Blaming everything only on the Catholic Church over simplifies the story and more importantly, the entire complexity of the movie.
    -- I thought that if the title of the film is the same as the title of the film-within-the-film, it will make the movie even more THOUGHT PROVOKING!!!

    ;)
    Last edited by hengcs; 12-25-2004 at 09:19 PM.

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    Originally posted by hengcs
    Their childhood days are told mainly in the film within film (which is WRITTEN by Ignacio but also EDITED by Enrique), so how much is truth, and how much is fiction is again unknown.

    I believe what Ignacio wrote about the events set in the mid-60s. I think we're meant to believe that Ignacio was honestly telling the truth (as he saw it) about what happened to him and Enrique as eleven year-olds. Of course, you may choose to believe it's all a fantasy.

    I am NOT defending the righteousness of any acts

    I didn't think you were defending any acts as righteous.

    Enrique is NOT consistently noble, he has abused his POWER as a director to sleep with the actor.

    In my book, this is called consensual fucking between adults.

    But is he also a victim when he is kind of being extorted a million by Ignacio?

    I wish Ignacio had gone through socially approved means (justice system) to get retribution. Padre needs to be exposed. He could potentially continue to abuse children.

    Also, is he doing some good (at least to Ignacio and Enrique) by telling what happened? (i.e., if he is telling the truth).

    Yes.

    NOTE how the movie CRAFTED very cunningly the scene when Ignacio GAVE IN. It was Ignacio who "ASKED" for the abuse in exchange for Enrique's pardon.

    I don't know what you mean exactly. I don't think it's appropriate for me to guess. I'd have to know what you mean specifically by "Ignacio gave in" and "Ignacio asked for the abuse".

    "Do you know what is like to live in a small town with a transvestite queen as your brother?" Well, only those who are in the dilemma,, living at THAT TIME and PLACE would know how it is like ...

    I wasn't directing a question at you or anyone else. I am quoting a line used by Juan in the film (as remembered by the former priest) to justify his complicity in the murder of Ignacio.

    I actually did NOT want to discuss the fat priest because he had too few scenes to talk about. But if you insist, note that all of his "evil deeds" (that are depicted in the movie) are to PROTECT the priest, NOT himself. You can blame him on bad deeds, but he is really "loyal and protective" to the priest or maybe the reputation of the church?!

    You are being extremely non-commital by ending the sentence with an exclamation point and a question mark. We don't have to discuss the assistant priest if you don't want to but, as depicted in The Visit, he is one despicable, murderous son of a bitch.

    I also did NOT want to discuss about Paquita because she also had too few scenes. But if you insist, isn't Paquita and Zahara GUILTY of STEALING bikes and money from drunk guys?

    Good point.

    Blaming everything only on the Catholic Church over simplifies the story and more importantly, the entire complexity of the movie.

    Ignacio, upon experiencing the priest's betrayal and abuse of power, says that he lost his faith, his belief in God and hell, that he was no longer afraid; and that without fear he was capable of anything. This is the bad education alluded to in the film's title. It's an indictment not only of the abuse perpetrated by a so-called "man of God". I see it as an attack on "teaching" through fear and intimidation.

    During interviews, Pedro Almodovar has criticized the Catholic church as an institution. He has spoken about how the church has had the most power during historical times when the people have been most blatantly oppressed.

    I thought that if the title of the film is the same as the title of the film-within-the-film, it will make the movie even more THOUGHT PROVOKING!!!

    I strongly disagree.

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    All the following should be read as a CONTINUATION of the earlier discussion, so that it is viewed in context.
    ;)

    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    I think we're meant to believe that Ignacio was honestly telling the truth (as he saw it) about what happened to him and Enrique as eleven year-olds. Of course, you may choose to believe it's all a fantasy.


    You asked me to enlighten what I meant by saying, "Is that the "final" story?" So, I wrote these 2 examples (Priest informing that Juan is the murderer, and the childhood story being told in the film within film) merely to point out an important message of the film -- FACT versus FICTION!!!

    In a way, the movie did depict
    (i) scenes of Enrique "editing" the script.
    (ii) another scene and hint: When Juan (Ignacio) saw Enrique editing the script, he said, "oh, it's ok ... it's your story now" (or something like that).

    Even you wrote, "we're meant to believe that ..."

    In sum, I am claiming it is a VERY GOOD MOVIE because it goes BEYOND the obvious plot of "film or reality" to make us think ...
    I am NOT suggesting that anything or everything is false at all. In fact, the whole story can be true. However, I am claiming it is such a well written script (unlike other film within film movie which is very obvious) because an important message to take away from the film is AT THE END of the movie, even we cannot tell how much is true or false.

    In OUR REAL LIFE and society, we are also unsure how much of our story or other's story is 100% accurate to the details or how much is actually crafted by what people want others to believe what really happen, with some "salt and pepper" to either make it more interesting or simply fill the gaps.

    Originally posted by Oscar,
    I didn't think you were defending any acts as righteous.


    My next 5 examples are merely to illustrate how grey the characters are (i.e., no clear judgmental values by the director), although the audience can choose to like or dislike the character.

    So, for all the 5 examples,
    -- if you have illustrated the good side of the character, I merely pointed out a few bad deeds.
    -- if you have illustrated the bad deeds, I merely pointed out a few good deeds.

    So, my point is,
    -- Enrique, Ignacio, Priest, Fat Priest, and Paquita all had their good and bad.
    -- I do NOT think they are all 50% good and 50% bad, they might be more toward the good or more toward the bad, but it is enough to illustrate my point that it is a well written characterization. Unlike many movies, it is NOT a simplistic "flat" characterization of heroes and villains.

    Example (1)
    You wrote, "In my book, this is called consensual fucking between adults."
    But recall in that scene, Enrique used the analogy of a woman and crocodiles? So, isn't the crocodile a negative connotation?

    Example (2),
    You think Juan is the biggest villain because his excuse is VERY lame, quoting Juan's excuse in the movie, "Do you know what is like to live in a small town with a transvestite queen as your brother?"
    -- I know it is from the movie. My point is, who are we to judge it is a lame excuse. I am trying to say that, Juan might not be as evil as you suggested. Maybe, just maybe he is really a victim of circumstances. That was why I wrote, "Well, only those who are in the dilemma, living at THAT TIME and PLACE would know how it is like ..."

    In sum, is the audience right to judge his excuse as lame?

    Overall, my point in illustrating the 5 counter examples is to illustrate what I like about the movie characterization, to depict good people having bad sides as well, and bad people occasionally doing good as well.

    That's all.
    ;)
    Last edited by hengcs; 12-27-2004 at 10:33 PM.

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    My review

    BAD EDUCATION (La Mala Educacion)

    Directed by Pedro Almodovar (2004)

    Bad Education, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's comedy/ film noir, delights in being outrageous, thumbing its nose at mainstream conventions with its explicit depictions of gay sexuality and egotistical power plays. Featuring stories within stories, the film is set in 1980 with flashbacks to 1964 and 1977 and, like many of the director's previous films, depicts characters undergoing a crisis of identity.

    Ignacio Rodriguez (Gael García Bernal), is an out-of-work actor who visits Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez), a successful film director, and recalls their relationship when they both attended Catholic school as young children. Although they haven't seen each other in sixteen years, their reaction is immediate. When Ignacio, who asks to be called Ángel, hands Enrique a story called "The Visit" based on his experience of their school days, Enrique believes he may have found the script for his next film.

    The story describes the bond between Ignacio and Enrique --their shared experience of the unwanted overtures of the Catholic priest Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho). In a fantasy sequence, flashbacks return us to the Catholic school and we see Ignacio and Enrique in the first blush of sexual attraction as they hold and do other activities with their hands in a movie theater, in a scene that is as unnecessary as it is exploitative. The priest, a literature professor, is clearly attracted to young Ignacio, and when he finds the two boys together in the bathroom, he expels Enrique, presumably so he can have Ignacio to himself. The story also recounts Ignacio's later life as Zahara, a drug addicted drag queen working at a local club who picks up the adult Enrique as a trick and later attempts to blackmail Father Manolo for one million dollars.

    Ignacio insists that he play the role of Zahara in the film, but Enrique tells him that he is not right for the part. When Ignacio withdraws the offer to film his story, Enrique begins to have doubts about his visitor and investigates his past, discovering that he is not who he pretends to be. Having won the coveted role of Zahara, however, Ángel becomes Enrique's friend and lover. The second half of the film becomes darker and more convoluted as Almodóvar attempts to emulate film noir conventions and the film degenerates into sordid melodrama.

    The popular Mexican actor García Bernal is dressed in drag for much of the film and is displayed in many sexually alluring poses throughout its running time. I am not easily offended by explicit sexuality on the screen, whether gay or straight, yet without any conversation, a touch of romance, or other hallmarks of our humanity, it seemed distasteful. As in Talk to Her, Almodóvar attempts to poeticize irresponsible behavior and to shock us into awareness of the outer limits of the human condition. Yet the fact that the priest is not shown attempting to molest the boys (and in fact gets off rather easy) does not allow us to connect the trauma of the school years with the madness of the present day, and the resultant anti-social behavior has little impact.

    In Bad Education, Almodóvar has given us a very personal film, one that he claims to be autobiographical, expect for specific details. It is stylish and playfully seductive and can be fun, yet for me it will almost certainly be considered a minor work. I found the characters neither interesting nor likeable, all acting like ten-year olds in perpetuity. The first hour of the film is engaging and Mr. Bernal is a talented actor, but at the end I was left wondering what the purpose of all of it was. While the subject is a serious one and demands serious treatment, Bad Education treats it in a manner that is flippant and unsatisfying.

    GRADE: B-
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    Re: My review

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Howard Schumann
    In Bad Education, Almodóvar has given us a very personal film, one that he claims to be autobiographical, expect for specific details.

    "It's not the story of my life in school, nor my education in the early years of "la movida", even though these are the two backgrounds in which the argument is set. La Mala Educacion is not a settlement with a priest that "miseducated" me, neither with the clergy in general. It's a noir, or that's how I see it." (Pedro Almodovar)

    "La Mala Educacion is fiction, but just the few interviews I've given so far make me realize that people like the idea of it being autobiographical" (Pedro Almodovar)

    While the subject is a serious one and demands serious treatment, Bad Education treats it in a manner that is flippant and unsatisfying.

    There really wasn't a single theme but a multiplicity of them. Sounds to me like you walked into the theatre with a fixed idea of what the film was about. A film that would have met your expectations has recently been released on dvd: The Boys of St. Vincent. Not to be missed.

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    Re: Re: My review

    There really wasn't a single theme but a multiplicity of them. Sounds to me like you walked into the theatre with a fixed idea of what the film was about. A film that would have met your expectations has recently been released on dvd: The Boys of St. Vincent. Not to be missed.
    I do not walk into a theater with any expectations. That would not allow me to be in present time and to report on my experience, which I pride myself in doing. In fact, I had very little idea what this was about, except that I heard it was a very good film.

    Almodovar has said exactly the opposite on a different occasion, saying that the story was true except for specific details.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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