Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Gay Sex Education.

Bad Education
2004, Spain
Pedro Almodovar
DVD

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good gay Spanish thriller. In fact, it’s been exactly three years, which coincidentally is the last time Pedro Almodovar made a movie. A firm believer in the auteur theory, director Almodovar seems as convinced of his status as a true auteur as he is undecided whether he wants to be Hitchcock or Greg Araki’s man-punk. His films blend flamboyantly homosexual themes with murder and intrigue with varying degrees of success, and nowhere is this more plain than in Bad Education. Unfortunately, as well as showcasing Almodovar’s gender- and genre-busting techniques, the film also evidences the full spectrum of his crap-to-gold pendulum swing. If Almodovar were Clint Eastwood, Bad Education would start out with the film-noir beauty of Million Dollar Baby, gently segue into the minimalist aesthetic and hushed grandeur of Unforgiven, then rapidly degenerate into a cross between Space Cowboys and that movie where he partners up with an ourang-outang, Of course, if he were Eastwood, he would have shot himself in the brain with a Colt .45 the first time his genitals stirred uncomfortable while walking by a poster for a WWE Summer Slam Pay Per View. Instead, Almodovar embraces themes that must be quite taboo in his native and devoutly Catholic Spain, like cross-dressing, prostitution, and the color red.

Awakening the beast within.

In the end, however, the good outweighs the bad in the film. Bad Education’s story takes some annoying twists and turns on its way to a disappointing conclusion, but there’s enough of interest happening to ignore the fact that the movie feels like Steven Cojocaru tracing over a Dashiel Hammet story. Gael Garcia Bernal plays a young transvestite prostitute who tracks down a former lover who has now become a successful filmmaker. The two begin having an affair, despite their mutual misgivings that the relationship will end in disaster and an irritating film-within-a-film conceit. On both counts, they’re right. Bernal is effective and believable in his role, despite looking like a slightly more muscular Jared Leto with a bottle-tan, and he masters the Spanish accent convincingly, effectively transforming his Mexican drawl into the sibilant speech defect required to be convincing in Spain. Though it seems unimportant, the two dialects are actually quite different. The Spanish always sound like they’re trying to order from the Taco Bell menu while missing two front teeth, whereas Mexican sounds like the choruses to early Cypress Hill tracks. Bernal gives his all, probably by loosing his incisors, and he gets the job done, carrying the film through its flaws and Hitchcockian clichés. And though the film-within-a-film thing is unforgivable, it’s at least made bearable by his strong performance, though he would have made a much better prostitute if he’d knocked out all his teeth instead of just the first two.


Discussion Question: Worst/Best film within a film?

9 Comments:

Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I've always been fond of The Player. The films discussed/made within that movie are pretty funny.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Je Suis said...

Does Adaptation count? I'm thinking the end credits where the killed twin's movie shows up.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

What was that Kevin Bacon movie...no the other one...NO...the OTHER other one...NO...THE OTHER OTHER ONE?

Yeah, that one..."The Big Picture" right? I liked that one.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't read the review yet, so all I will say for now is, Ed Wood.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Yes, Adaptation certainly does count, especially since the last third essentially is the killed twins movie. I hadn't thought of that.

Sam, didn't they discuss making The Graduate 2 in The Player, and now they've actually made it? That makes me feel strange.

Jerk, I've been avoiding seeing The Big Picture because I think I'll get really depressed. You're saying I should take that chance?

Anomymous - Ed Wood rules. The guy, not the movie, though the film's OK, too.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Well, all the pitches made in The Player were based on actual movie pitches, so it wouldn't be surprising if that was the actual pitch. It's funny but horribly depressing at the same time.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

The worst film within a film I can remember is Hamlet's The Mousetrap in the Hamlet with Ethan Hawke. Mostly because it's the kind of art film people I know would make.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

State and Main - it has a Baldwin and I still liked it. And maybe Living in Oblivion. For introducing me to 'room tone'.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

"The Big Picture" is not great by any means, BUT...It does a very good job of showing you how Hollywood can take your shit and change it COMPLETELY just to try and appeal to everyone.

It's on my bad movies that I like list.

8:21 AM  

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