18.1.11

Bad Education

Have to agree with this Time Out review: 'it's too fractured to stoke clear empathy or steer to dramatic satisfaction'. Didn't stop the reviewer giving the film 5 stars, but whatevs. At the end of that I remain curiously unmoved. It's the first time an Almodóvar film has not left me fazed. Why the lack of faze? What happened, Pedro?

One explanation is that the demands of the thriller plot result in
Bernal's character remaining a mystery for much of the film. Great acting, sure, but you're not gonna be sympathising with an enigma. The three time-frame switches also don't exactly make investment in the story easy. Tangling up the threads of the narrative so much makes you lose momentum. A third of the way into the film, I literally started looking at the clock.

I wonder if I was missing something more, tho. When the villain finally returns to tell his extraordinary tale, the film doesn't push into the fantastic.
It stays pretty subdued (for Almodóvar). There's not a lot of energy in the loco life of the blackmailed peadophile ex-priest, the blackmailing junky transexual, and the long-suffering ambitious brother. I think Almodóvar tried to cut through the mental and go straight for the ominous. But wouldn't it have been better if we had both? Maybe the contrast would have ENHANCED the two elements.

Both Bad Education and Talk To Her have gone for a darker style. Both films are also focused almost entirely on male characters.
Almodóvar seems to be more ambivalent and equivocal when it comes to dealing with the men-folk. The new direction isn't really working for me, tbh. I miss the benign female universes constantly plagued by treacherous males. Those films got the light-dark balance right, I feel. They were soapy, colourful and exciting. This new stuff may be more 'mature', but it loses the things that made Almodóvar so special in the first place.

I guess what I'm saying is I prefer
Almodóvar to stay stupid but fun. Perhaps that means delving into his earlier films, pre-Women on the Verge...

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