Tuesday, November 29, 2016

1993 Winner, Belle Époque

Belle Époque
Director:  Fernando Trueba

Distributed by:  Sony Pictures Classics,

Released:  December 1992

Country: Spain

Do you ever channel surf and find yourself landing at Telemundo or Univision when they’re showing those telenovelas with the silly acting and mucho caliente actresses?  Do you leave it on with no subtitles even though you have no idea what is going on until your wife walks in, when you pretend you were just flipping through to find a ball game, or maybe tell her you forgot where The History Channel is?  This has never happened to me.  But if it has to you, this is your movie.

Fernando with The Wild One
Belle Époque is set in 1931 Spain, a country in political turmoil.  This is before Francisco Franco took over in 1936 (he’s still dead) during the Spanish Civil War.  Before the Civil War, the Traditional Monarchists were fighting the Republicans.  These Spanish Republicans weren’t the fun kind like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, but were secularists who were no friends to the Catholic Church. 

The movie centers around Fernando, a pretty boy who used to live in a seminary, now deserting the Traditionalist army because he has gone agnostic somehow, possibly because of what he has seen in the war.  He meets an old man and befriends him, and is invited to stay at the old man's home for awhile.  The old guy takes a liking to him because Fernando, while in the seminary, learned to cook better than the Galloping Gourmet.  
The Lesbian

Fernando stays with him a little while and is getting ready to get on a train out of town when he finds out the old man has four super-hot daughters about to return home.  One is a widow; one’s engaged, and a bit on the wild side; and one’s a lesbian.  Fernando has spend the last few years in the army and in the seminary, so he's not picky.  And Fernando has some serious luck with women—he looks sweet and innocent, doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, but is able to get more girls in the sack in two hours than Frank Sinatra did in any given two weeks.
The Widow
Now I said there were four daughters, and Fernando can't decide which one he wants.  He takes a crack at the oldest three one by one, thinking he may be in love with each--even the lesbian, who seduces him in the movie's most strange and funny scene.  The youngest daughter is an 18-or-19-year-old Penelope Cruz.  She’s the tough nut to crack because she’s a virgin, but don’t think that will stop Fernando from doing everything he can to change that.   

The Virgin
Overall, I wasn’t sure if this film really worked as a comedy, or maybe would have been better as a long telenovela, but in the end it was fun enough to watch.  It certainly felt like a guilty pleasure.  I did leave on the subtitles the whole time, but to be honest, I spent most of the film trying to decide which daughter was the hottest; while I had to rely on sight, Fernando is able to use all senses to answer that question, and use them all he does.  Who will he end up with?

The Title:  Literally, the “Beautiful Era.”  The term really is supposed to refer to pre-World War I Europe; I suppose it refers to the time in Spain between the Monarchy in 1931 and Franco in 1936.  Or the time Fernando is living in a house with four beautiful women.

The Culture:  You do get a flavor for the constant flux in Spanish politics before the totalitarian Generalissimo Francisco Franco took over with the help of his amigos Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolin.  Rural Spain back then seemed like it would be a lovely place to vacation.

Agenda Danger:  Nothing major, but there are a few Traditionalist/Catholic characters that come off as silly, hypocritical, and stuffy.  The secularism of the Republicans seems to come off as a bit more rational.

Best Picture that year:  Schindler’s List

Rating:  Light in tone and visually satisfying (see above: did I mention the four hot daughters?).  Why not check it out?

No comments:

Post a Comment