Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Daniel Giménez-Cacho, Javier Cámara, Francisco Boira
In a scene midway through this intoxicatingly complex movie, two characters head into a theater whose marquee reads "Film Noir Week." It's writer-director Pedro Almodóvar's winking acknowledgment that Bad Education (in Spanish, with English subtitles) is an up-to-date reworking, and warping, of the classic suspense genre. The newfangled twist: Education's obsessive love affairs are all between men; its femme fatale is a transvestite.
Set between 1964 and 1980, the multi-threaded story involves a film director (Martínez), an actor (Bernal) and the priest who abused one of them as a boy during their school days. Nothing is quite as it seems—this is film noir, after all—and even the most villainous characters have their sympathetic moments.
Almodóvar (Talk to Her) shows his usual visual lushness and fluidity. His color palette is as intense as ever, as if to match the strong emotions of his characters. Bernal, in a turn that's the polar opposite of his idealistic Ché Guevara in the recent The Motorcycle Diaries, gives a virtuoso performance that keeps viewers (and the characters around him) perpetually off-balance. Note: Though there's no full-frontal nudity, Education's sex scenes are quite frank. (NC-17)