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Bad Education (free)

  • Chazen Museum of Art 750 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

Bad Education is no doubt a Pedro Almodóvar film: queer and campy, devious, provocative, and melodramatic, with themes encompassing the Catholic religion’s reign over Spain, the entanglement of gender, sexuality and identity, and the entertainment business—all in bright colors. When compared to the rest of Almodóvar's work, especially its immediate predecessors and Academy Award winners Talk To Her and All About My Mother (both of which will also screen soon as part of UW Cinematheque's current Almodóvar series), 2004’s Bad Education is a bit of a letdown. The film is set in 1980, when a young director, Enrique, is approached by an individual who claims to be a childhood friend named Ignacio who now goes by Angel, played by Gael García Bernal. Angel brings the director a short story based on the childhood experience of the two boys in Catholic school on the condition that he plays the lead, a trans woman seeking justice for her past by blackmailing a priest. The noir shifts back and forth between the present day, the story the film is based on, the making of the film, the new relationship between the old friends, and Enrique’s quest to find out about the truth about Angel. Almodóvar's standard ambiguity, combined with so many interweaving story lines, makes Education quite the mental workout, but Bernal’s dual performance can be appreciated regardless of whether one is engaged by the story. For the most ardent fans of Spain’s most essential filmmaker, Bad Education could prove quite the treat; more casual viewers might understandably need more convincing. —Caleb Oakley