This disc does indeed deliver an education — of the most nourishing sort. Writer-director Pedro Almodovar relates one interesting detail after another in his subtitled commentary, calling attention to filmmaking techniques and parallels to his own life, while also dropping in whimsical asides. This audio primer further enriches an intricate noir full of period detail that might be unfamiliar to auds outside Spain.
Almodovar likens his nuevo noir to Russian dolls, in that one story begets another and another, and calls attention to the symmetry between them early on. He points out that he deliberately switched back and forth between anamorphic widescreen presentation and full screen to differentiate between the story of director Enrique and the story written by his first love, Ignacio, about abuse by a priest at their Catholic school. Other key differences between the stories and reality are revealed as the pic’s stories interlace upon one another.
It being an Almodovar film, “Bad Education” is not without sexual perversions — altar boy Ignacio, we learn, grew up into a junkie drag queen intent on blackmailing his molester, and ambitious younger brother Juan (Gael Garcia Bernal) ain’t no saint, either. As the film gets darker, the homages to noir classics such as “Double Indemnity” become more obvious even without the aid of Almodovar’s commentary.
The helmer doesn’t hide his feelings about the church, either. Once Ignacio lost faith in his molester and therefore the church, Almodovar says, “He became capable of doing terrible things.”
Those views don’t quash the filmmaker’s irrepressible spirit, however: When Bernal visits a drag queen for pointers, Almodovar confesses: “Here, don’t ask me why, Gael reminds me a bit of Macaulay Culkin.”
Bulk of remaining bonus features work around the language barrier by either avoiding talk (as in the featurette, which is really more a montage) or by turning AFI Film Festival footage into a virtual featurette.