PEDRO Almodvar's stylish, gay-centric spin on Double Indemnity was awarded the prestigious opening night gala at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Bad Education is another incredibly accomplished work from the Spanish maestro, with strong echoes of his 1987 feature Law Of Desire starring the iconic Carmen Maura.

This is one of Almodovar's most stylish and audacious films to date, held together by an intricate flashback structure which cleverly obscures the truth behind many layers of fantasy and illusion.

Sixteen years after they became childhood best buddies, film director Enrique Goded (Martinez) happens to cross paths with his first love, Ignacio Rodriguez (Bernal).

At first Enrique doesn't recognise his pal - Ignacio has changed so markedly - but he senses the same spark between them.

The pair agree to collaborate on Ignacio's screenplay The Visit, a largely autobiographical piece about child molestation at a Catholic boys' school.

In time, Enrique takes his old friend as his lover and the film goes into production, with Ignacio cast in the lead role of vengeful transsexual Zahara.

Past and present collide, compelling Enrique to reminisce about his school days and in particular Ignacio's treatment at the hands of jealous Father Manolo (Gimenez-Cacho).

As principal photography comes to a close, Enrique learns a shocking secret that sends his carefully ordered world spinning out of control.

Bad Education is an exquisite confection that will appeal greatly to fans of Almodovar and Spanish cinema.

The opening half-hour is crammed with outrageous tongue-in-cheek comedy, featuring a scene-stealing turn from Javier Camara, who played the nurse in Talk To Her, as a foul-mouthed gender-bending diva.

Then the tone shifts effortlessly into classic thriller territory, with Mexican dream-boat Bernal inhabiting the role of the archetypal femme fatale, who uses his body to manipulate everyone around him.

Bernal is wonderful at hiding his character's emotions and he sparks marvellously with Martinez.

Almodovar's screenplay conceals numerous twists with surprises, dragging out the final revelation perhaps a little too long to sustain the tension.

Bad Education may lack the intense characterisation of All About My Mother and Talk To Her, but it's still a delicious and spicy treat.

Rating: 9/10