Call him Senor Almodovar or Sir or whatever respectful title you wish. But do not call him the gay filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. That makes him lose his lunch faster than a bad review, reports OutUK correspondent Ron Dicker. The Pedro Almodovar Collection is a 5 DVD Box Set of the Spanish film-maker's most acclaimed early movies, including his richly baroque movie about child sexual abuse and mixed identities, called Bad Education.
"I have to say I'm almost a little insulted that that adjective always seems to precede me," he said. "Not because I'm ashamed to be a filmmaker or to be gay. You never hear 'the heterosexual president of the United States George Bush.' "

Thankfully, the colourful Spanish director kept down his lunch during a beachside interview to discuss his 2004 film Bad Education (La Mala Educacion) which kicked off the Cannes Film Festival just over a decade ago.

Bad Education is about a paedophile priest whose abuse carries a shockwave effect decades later, skewers some of Almodovar's favourite targets: the Catholic church and social repression during the Franco era. Gael Garcia Bernal, from Y Tu Mama Tambien, plays the adult version of a schoolboy tormented by the priest.

All grown up, Bernal's character sets out to seduce his first love, a school chum now an established director, so Bernal's character can play himself in a movie he has written about his life. A ruse is at work and the priest later appears, but it's best not to give too much away.
Every character prefers men or boys for company, but Almodovar bristles at the notion that it's a gay movie.

"The fact that I'm a gay screenwriter doesn't make me to be more compassionate with the gay characters," he said. "I feel compassion for all of my characters because otherwise I couldn't write about them."

Still graced with a head of bushy black hair and an elfin face younger than his 54 years, Almodovar appeared tanned and relaxed. He chose not to be in competition here, saying that pulling up the curtain on the cinematic fortnight made him feel like a winner. He won the director's award when he brought All About My Mother to the Riviera in 1999.

Bad Education received mixed reviews from Spanish critics here, but the mushrooming scandal of clerical abuse on both sides off the Atlantic has made his movie all the more relevant.

Almodovar has been on a roll, winning a screenplay Oscar for his last film Talk To Her and a best foreign film Oscar for his previous work All About My Mother.

The candy-coated slyness that has permeated his work flourishes in Bad Education. Almodovar takes on organized religion with a familiar melange of characters on society's fringe. Almodovar became an agnostic at age 10, and nothing priests did at his Catholic school succeeded in changing his mind.

"God in my childhood eyes never manifested itself," he said. "But on the other hand his representatives on Earth gave me only reasons to have disgust for them."

No how matter how hard Almodovar might try to separate the film-maker from his political beliefs and his sexuality, they hover in his movies like angels.

Almodovar insisted on the priest's humanity."The fact that he has felt love for something forbidden doesn't mean that that love is any less real," but he still tips his heart in the story, just as he does away from the camera.

"You have to fight against that thing in power because there is that paradox in the Church in the fact that it continues to manifest itself against homosexuality as a disease," he said.

"But the percentage of homosexuals in the church is humungous.

"I would almost say that seminaries seem to be like schools for future homosexuals. And I think the essence of this problem is celibacy. It's something the church has to confront." Eliminating the vow of chastity would stop 80 percent of the abuse, believes Almodovar, who was not molested by priests but knew many schoolmates who were.

Nothing appeared to rile him during the 30-minute chat more than being misunderstood or misperceived, so he often gave long answers that circled around his point before he honed in on it.

Asked why he casts so many transvestite and transsexual characters, he stops his translater. "I've only used them in four movies!" he snapped in English.

He calmed down when asked what made them an effective artistic device. "Their mere presence in the centre of the action makes the action more dynamic," he replied. "It provokes the other characters into action. I have many friends who are transsexuals and I'm very interested in how they manage to resolve what I see as a tragedy of having been born in a body that they do not feel belongs to them."

Legendary Director Quentin Tarantino, a former Cannes jury president, once told Almodovar that Bad Education would work the same with straight characters. The conversation made Almodovar ponder the sexual politics of the film. "In a vital choice the characters face, they take the darker path," he said. "They suffer the consequences and don't complain about it. But that doesn't have to do with their sexuality. It's something else I'm talking about."

The Pedro Almodovar Collection is a 5 DVD Box Set which features Bad Education, Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Live Flesh and the Oscar winners All About My Mother and Talk To Her.

It's available now from Amazon.


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