This is one of those beautiful and erotic films that only seem to come out of Europe and even though the main story sounds whimsical it actually has some serious overtones if you look at it closely. Story takes place in Spain in 1931 and the film starts off with an Army deserter named Fernando (Jorge Sanz) who ends up at the villa of an artist named Manolo (Fernando Fernan Gomez). Manolo is in his sixties and he and Fernando quickly become friends but after spending a few nights together Fernando declares that he needs to leave. But Manolo's four daughters show up the same day and Fernando quickly changes his mind after meeting them.
Fernando gets to know each daughter intimately one by one and the first encounter is with Violeta (Ariadna Gil) but she turns out to be a lesbian. After that Fernando has a brief romp in bed with Rocio (Maribel Verdu) but she still plans on marrying a young man who has been courting her for some time. Clara (Miriam Diaz Aroca) is a widow but after Fernando attempts to kiss her he falls into the river and almost drowns. Clara helps him out and they end up making love by the shore but later he catches cold from the water and gets sick. The fourth daughter is Luz (Penelope Cruz) and she is the youngest and still a virgin. She is in love with Fernando and it infuriates her to watch him go from one sister to another.
This film is directed by Fernando Trueba and his influences are very evident. The humor in this film is reminiscent of both Luis Bunuel and Billy Wilder but this is easily more erotic than anything those two filmmakers ever directed. One of the things that is interesting about this story is that Manolo is an agnostic and doesn't care much about the politics that are plaguing his country. Once Fernando enters the home of this man it seems like everything that is taking place around them is inconsequential. Manolo's villa is a world all by itself where innocence and sexuality are accepted as just another day. Even though this is a comedy the story does have some serious elements about it and one of them involves the newly created Spanish Republic that would not last. The last scene in the film leaves the viewer with something to think about as Manolo says goodbye to both his daughter Luz and Fernando. Manolo's face shows that a definite change has taken place and even bigger ones will arrive in the future. These little moments seem to make this film more than just a comedy and it suggests that all that has taken place is really a metaphor for more serious matters. The performances are all solid and Gomez as Manolo has all the charm that Philippe Noiret displayed in "Cinema Paradiso". Even though most of the roles are played for comedy the film is benefited by a heartfelt and believable performance by Cruz. Her angst comes across very clear and she gives this film an air of realism that all of us can identify with. Very endearing film that has more to offer than the main story would allow you to believe.
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