Release date: Nov. 19
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Oscar alumnus: Pedro Almodovar (original screenplay, “Talk to Her”)
Bad Education” was the first Spanish film to open the Cannes fest, and the pic’s reception since its bow on the Croisette in May — it had previously opened in Spain March 19 — has cemented the world-class status of writer-director Pedro Almodovar.
The consensus this time around is that Almodovar has produced his most layered and ambitious film, and if it comes with a whiff of scandal, well, so much the better. The plot hinges on much the same kind of sex abuse revelations that have rocked the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Whereas one could worry that Almodovar’s singular vision has perhaps been diluted by accelerating success and two Oscars (1999 foreign-language film for “All About My Mother” and original screenplay for “Talk to Her”), “Bad Education” confirms the Madrid-based filmmaker as an unusually accomplished and nuanced chronicler of the multiple chambers of the heart. He is more than ever a critics’ darling, albeit one with a sizable public.
When “Talk to Her” wasn’t submitted as Spain’s foreign language contender two years ago, Oscar voters nominated the helmer for his direction and script and gave him the statue for the latter. Many of them also are likely to respond to “Bad Education,” which refracts the sexual and social fissures of Franco-era Spain through the story of two boys, who meet again as men some two decades later.
But that doesn’t begin to describe the complexity of a plot with one foot determinedly in film noir and another in the kind of scenario that is truly ripped from today’s headlines.
In casting terms, Almodovar has always been spot on, creating stars of his own in Carmen Maura and a then-very young Antonio Banderas, while tapping into international names like Penelope Cruz in “All About My Mother.” He does it again with Mexican thesp Gael Garcia Bernal, who between “Bad Education” and “The Motorcycle Diaries” is having a bountiful season all his own.