Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Film Club and the Gay Adventure in Spain

I'm just hoping that this post's title might bring in a few hits from unsuspecting net surfers who are probably not searching for a load of nonsense about watching a film in a Cornish village.

Film Club met as usual here at Millbrooker Towers on Sunday evening, plus the additional presence of Dozybean who's staying here for a while until she can move into her new flat (therefore with the additional presence of Loki as well - but he was fast in his slumbers during the showing).

We were minus Frankenkeith for most of the film; he arrived with about half an hour left and in the company of his lovely friend Yvonne, who we haven't seen for ages.

Everyone else was present and more-or-less correct as we featured Pedro Almodovar's 2004 "serio-comedy" La Mala Educacion (Bad Education). Take a peek here at the face of a cinematic genius, this is the Oscar winning Mr Almodovar himself:Bad Education revels in some Almodovar trademarks: vibrant colours, slightly sureal settings, impossible cleanliness on set giving a resemblance to a very high-tech 1950s "golden era" Hollywood sound stage production.

There are some other trademarks in evidence, too. Almodovar does enjoy a good transexual character or two (see Volver, one of his greatest achievements).
The narrative concerns two boys, one of whom is sexually abused by a priest at school and their subsequent relationship when they meet up as adults after a long separation. Oh yes, it's pretty heavy subject matter, but Almodovar manages to keep a stunning lightness of touch and there is delicate humour everywhere (and a decidedly indelicate, if very funny, blow job scene in the early sequences.

The sexual element is treated tastefully enough (with the possible exception of the aforementioned BJ scene): a bit of pillow chewing here, some meaningful glances at semi naked torsos there, whilst never leaving the audience in any doubt about what's going on. And never a willy in sight.The performances are genuinely high quality, with Gael Garcia Bernal (above) in the triptych role of Juan/Zahara/Angel taking all the prizes, in my book, for a tremendous piece of work.

Bernal is well supported with an intense performance from Fele Martinez (below) as his supposedly long lost schoolboy friend, now a famed film director from whom "Angel" wants work.The plot is impressively more complex than we are initially led to believe and darkens to great effect as the story that we have believed to be true is exposed as only a half-truth. But which half?

Almodovar uses the film-within-a-film dramatic device to absorbing effect, leading the audience through emotional hinterlands and into humorous escapades with equal ease as villain becomes victim and vice-versa.If I were to try and find fault, the final sequences could lose ten minutes or so - by that time we all know what's going to happen and it's being increasingly telegraphed, so our heroic director-writer should probably have had a tad more quality control and a sharper pair of scissors in the editing suite.

That's a minor whinge, though, this film is totally absorbing, immaculately acted and addresses some serious issues with a wry smile and a distinctly sideways look. So - on to the film club scale, although truthfully I'm struggling to remember much of the post-film discussion on the grounds that rather than concentrate on the film's impact straight away, we spent a very pleasant time catching up with our later arrivals Yvonne and Frankenkeith.

However: Shazzerooneypoos made not a single wuffling noise and, being a known Almodovar fan enjoyed this outing into his territory; Dong didn't take any fag breaks, but did outdo Slocombe in the pithy quote stakes describing the whole thing a "an everyday tale of continental buggery" - not really Dong's cup of Earl Grey, this one; Slocombe did enjoy it and appreciated Almodovar's use of colour and scene; Mrs The Millbrooker and I were, once again, in harmony in our opinions about this one.

As for a recommendation - if you don't find the idea of gay sex difficult to contend with, there's everything to like about this film and I recommend it highly. A great tale, well told, and beautifully realised.

Almodovar working at his best.

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