DIRECTOR:                     FERNANDO TRUEBA
COUNTRY:                     SPAIN 1993
MUSIC:                            ANTOINE DUHAMEL
CAST:                               Penelope Cruz (Luz), Miriam Diaz-Aroca (Clara), Gabino Diego (Juanito), Michel Galabru (Danglard), Fernando Fernan Gomez (Manolo), Ariadna Gil (Violeta), Maribel Verdu (Rocio), Mary Carmen Ramirez (Amalia)
SUPER FEATURES:         Funny story. Oscar winner for 1994.

Belle Epoque is a fun film to watch, but one better be prepared to get a handle on the political jokes, or this film will simply come off as a bit of a weird, and unusual story. What really drives this film, is not the story, or the lucky young man, but the political upheavals that even the family is going through, from the father, to the daughters, and finally, the mother.

It is the story of a young man that deserts the army because it has gone crazy on him, and is fighting too many political battles that don't make sense at all. And he wants out of it. But his wanting out of it, only lands him in a place where politics reigns supreme, even if not honorably.

When he is ready to leave the place he wound up in, he finds out that the old man he has befriended has four daughters. And he decides to stick around. In no time he makes himself helpful in the household where he cooks up some specialties that everyone enjoys, from the priest to anyone else, even if their politics are all screwed up. At least they agree on something.... food..... and well .... sex.

But what starts out as what might appear as a good intention on the young man's part, becomes either a joke, or just another conquest. And everyone is on a conquest, except Don Manolo. And he is the best part of the story, and the most interesting. Surprisingly enough he is the only not walking around thinking of sex. Well for good reason, if we can appreciate the fact that his own wife is also on a conquest.

But BELLE EPOQUE is a fun film to watch, as things turn so quickly and get so mixed up that it is a wonder that worse things do not happen all the time. While well directed, with almost all the political stuff as throw away lines and bits of comedy, Fernando Trueba's terrain seems to indicate that the area of love is never to be mixed up with politics. One of the daughters lives a terrible  (is it?) mess because of it, but takes advantage of it when it serves her.

Eventually Fernando finds his match, well, the one that he got caught with, anyway. And the film comes to a nice close.... nothing changed, it seems. And politics are still alive and well. And maybe Juanito and Luz will make it and have a better time for it. But after three sisters, this may take some doing.

Unlike some other Spanish films that take the political situations seriously, this one makes a complete mockery of them, starting with Juanito, who has a terrible problem with his mother. But even their politics only last as far as the guns seem to be aimed at certain political factions. In 1931, and after the second world war, this was a serious problem. Many country folks did not take to the new system as easily as the town folks did under the pointed guns.

BELLE EPOQUE is a fun film to watch and stay with, even if it appears to drag here and there. All the girls are interesting and everyone of them is well defined as a character.

Fun film.





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