Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Almodovar: Bad Education / All About My Mother

In the early 60s, two boys - Ignacio and Enrique - discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school. Father Manolo, the school principal and Literature teacher, both witnesses and takes part in these discoveries. The three characters come against one another twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980. These meetings are set to change the life and death of some of them.

Pedro Almodovar takes a look at his own adolescence as well as confronting the issue of sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church in this stylish thriller, which was chosen to open the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. In 1980s Madrid two young men, filmmaker Enrique and aspiring actor Ignacio, now calling himself Angel, open up dark secrets as they revisit their earlier years together at a Catholic school. As they try to uncover the truth about themselves, each other and the diverse characters in their story, they realise that things and people are not as they first seem ...  Well, that's what the dvd blurb says, though it mixes up the two leads' characters, but then it is a very confusing narrative .... Gael Garcia Bernal is at different times Ignacio/Angel, his brother Juan and Ignacio's alter ego the sensational drag queen Zahara - who does that sizzling musical tribute to Spanish star Sara Montiel, and also gets it on with another Enrique - a hilarious and sexy scene where she/he is aided and abetted by his ditzy pal Paquito. Then the first version we see of Father Manolo is soon replaced by another .... and then there is another Ignacio - confused? you could be, but one can hardly spell out the plot in more detail without giving too much away.

We had been meaning to get around to Almodovar and his dazzling stylish movies here at the Projector. I have 10 of them here in front of me. He first came to my attention with WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN in the late 80s, and it was great to go back and discover LAW OF DESIRE. These were ground-breaking, vivid, stylish movies. ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER was another huge hit, followed by BAD EDUCATION and TALK TO HER. A box set of 5 also includes LIVE FLESH and TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN. I also have his last 3: VOLVER, another success, BROKEN EMBRACES and his last one THE SKIN I LIVE IN - expect reports on these before too long. Today though lets go back to the complexities of BAD EDUCATION (LA MALA EDUCACION) and ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (TODO SOBRE MI MADRE).  We shall be looking forward to his new one: I'M SO EXCITED ...

I had not seen BAD EDUCATION since 2004 and it played like I was seeing it for the first time, mesmerised by the crazy plot's twists and turns. It looks marvellous too of course, very Spanish in design, lots of vivid reds, with some stunning setpieces: the whole Zahara sequence, the two boys hiding from Fr Manolo - which played brilliantly in the cinema; someone falling face first into a typewriter ... Gael Garcia Bernal is stunning here, and joins those great performers in Almodovar movies: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Rossy de Palma, Marisa Paredes and Penelope Cruz.  The marvellous script consists of three stories which have been interwoven in a brilliant way. Story one: film director Enrique (Fele Martinez) is being paid a visit by a long lost friend. who has written a script about their schooldays and the priest who abused them. This is the story we see as the director imagines it, with the two boys and the drag queen Zahara and her Enrique. Then the reality is the third story when everything becomes clear, a story of blackmail and murder. In all, a dazzling experience and one to revisit more than once ... the notes at the end which tell us what happens to the characters says "Enrique Goded is still making films with the same passion". The same applies obviously to Almodovar. The dvd 'deleted scenes' for once are interesting too, continuing what happens when Pequito (Javier Camara) and Zahara's pick-up Enrique (Alberto Ferreira) go to the school with the police, after Zahara unwisely confronted the priests ...

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, 1999, is another brilliant one, maybe Pedro's ALL ABOUT EVE, dediced to mothers everywhere (including Bette Davis and Romy Schneider).  This too is marvellously engrossing and entertaining, a deep drama, portraying the female universe with strength and realism, and explaining the importance of a mother.

A single mother in Madrid sees her only son die on his 17th birthday as he runs to seek an actress's autograph. She goes to Barcelona to find the lad's father, a transvestite named Lola who does not know he has a child. First she finds her friend, Agrado, a wild yet caring transvestite; through him she meets Rosa, a young nun bound for El Salvador, but instead finds out she is pregnant by Lola. Manuela becomes the personal assistant of Huma Rojo, the actress her son admired, by helping Huma manage Nina, the co-star and Huma's lover. However, Agrado soon takes over when Manuela must care for Hermana Rosa's risky pregnancy. With echos of Lorca, "All About Eve," and "Streetcar Named Desire," the mothers (and fathers and actors) live out grief, love, and friendship. 

The whole cast is sublime here, particularly Cecilia Roth as the mourning mother, and Penelope Cruz (who would be so sensational in VOLVER) as the nun infected with HIV, and Marisa Paredes as the actress with her own problems, the story is deeply affecting and it remains a key movie of the '90s. Almodovar, like Fassbinder before him, is a director who certainly puts his gay universe on film, like Francois Ozon and sometimes Andre Techine. Perhaps only Polanski can create such a private universe (along with Antonioni and Fellini, and Douglas Sirk back in the '50s). Reading some of the many reviews for ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER over at IMDB show what a brilliant and loved film it is.
More Almodovar before too long -  I want to go back to the early ones and see his last, and |I simply must get on with those Chabrol and Melville titles...

1 comment: