Belle Epoque Review

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A deserting soldier is seduced by Penelope Cruz and her three sisters. Lucky sod.


Winner of the 1993 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Fernando Trueba's romantic comedy of sexual manners is a return to the whimsical playground the director first frolicked through on his 1979 debut First Effort (which he followed over a decade later with a psychological thriller, 1990's The Mad Monkey starring Jeff Goldblum).

The Eden of pre-Civil war Spain is handsomely photographed by José Luis Alcaine, combining the period panache of Merchant Ivory with the sting of a Berlanga or Buñuel. The emphasis is on innocent Jorge Sanz's dalliances with Penelope Cruz and her sisters, but the real breath of life comes from a splendid supporting cast, most notably including Mary Carmen Ramírez as the girls' operatic mother.

A deceptively sharp satire on religion, politics and family morality.