With Bad Education, Academy Award-winning director Pedro Almodovar goes for the hat trick after the huge critical successes of 1999's All About My Mother and 2002's Talk To Her. And from its innovative opening sequence, complete with a flashy collage and retro '60s music, one begins to suspect that he has succeeded. This semi-autobiographical (on Almodovar's part) story cuts back and forth between two tales. The first, set in Madrid, circa 1980, finds Enrique (Fele Martínez), a film director, getting an unexpected visit from Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal). Ignacio had been a childhood friend of Enrique's and has completed a script called The Visit, which he would like Enrique to consider making into a film. As Enrique reads The Visit, the film begins to cut to that story and Enrique (and the audience) quickly realises that it is about their childhood together, specifically when they had fallen in love as young boys, while being sexually and physically abused by the priest at their Catholic school. This is when the plot begins to get tricky. Employing various clever twists, Almodovar channels Alfred Hitchcock and stylises the film like a '50s thriller. This steers Bad Education in a different direction than Almodovar's previous films and at times one wonders if he can pull it off. But he does. The performances are excellent, specifically Bernal's (Y Tu Mama Tambien), who plays three different roles (including a drag queen that bares an uncanny resemblance to Julia Roberts). The editing and cinematography create a perfect pace and mood, and Almodovar mixes genres like no tomorrow (gay love story, buddy comedy, intense thriller) to create a homage to various cinematic forms while adding very modern twists (explicit homosexual sex wasn't a big part of Alfred Hitchcock's repertoire). When all is said and done, Bad Education is a post-modern masterpiece that continues to diversify Pedro Almodovar's already diverse filmography. (Mongrel Media)