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  • Belle Epoque is a light, wistful romantic comedy, easy to watch, and easier to love. It is set in glorious pre-Franco Spain and is as beautifully filmed as it is written and acted.

    The story entails (in a nutshell) a young army deserter who befriends an older man who is an artist and a self-proclaimed anarchist. The old man has four beautiful daughters and film carries you along as our young hero falls in love with each in order.

    Belle Epoque is one of those rare gems that does not stray from its purpose - to be a celebration of love and romance and comic tale of a young soldier controlled by his libido. No violence, car chase scenes, drippy pre-packaged morality plays - just plain fun.

    If you have not tried watching a sub-titled movie or have had little exposure to foreign films, start here. Belle Epoque is the best film I have seen out of Spain and an all-time personal favourite.

    ***1/2 out of ****.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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.

    *****SPOILER ALERT*****

    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.
  • This awesome film has a simple plot : A man , four women and a lot of romance . It deals with a Spanish soldier named Fernando (Jorge Sanz) deserts from the army in 1931, at the beginning of Spanish Republic , a time of optimism and promise and previous Civil War (1936-1939) . Fernando flees only to find himself detained by a pair of local Guardia Civil . The hearty young boy and main character, well portrayed by Jorge Sanz (still one of Spain's most promising young actors), breaks outs and soon is befriended a lonely ,elderly man called Manolo (Fernando Fernan Gomez) in a little village . Problems arise when the Manolo's four daughters (Penelope Cruz , Miriam Diaz Aroca , Maribel Verdu , Ariadna Gil) come to visit their daddy and the soldier quickly enchanted falls in love with each of them . Fernando likes all of them and they like him , so he must decide which one to love , or Rocio, Violeta, Clara and Luz .

    Earthy comedy with historical and romantic elements ; including enjoyable performances , adequate set design and delightfully shot . ¨Belle Epoque" , ¨The age of beauty¨ results to be other of the innumerable stories to deal with youthful love , being developed in mirth , lively and vital style . An agreeable story in which an ex-soldier escapes and discovers the opposite sex on the way , it is plenty of amusing moments , moving feelings and fun finale . It is a light , wistful romantic comedy , easy to watch , and easier to love . A very pleasant romantic comedy plenty of humor , emotion , sensitive scenes and mayhem . "Belle Epoque" is Trueba's return to top form, with an intelligent and engaging script which uses amusing situations to give us a good movie in a high sense and intimate sensitivity and that kept me entertained for the almost two hours of duration . It is well set and is as marvelously filmed as it is written and acted . This is one of those rare gems that does not stray from its purpose - to be a celebration of love and romance and humorous tale of a young boy controlled by his libido . Oscarized director Fernando Trueba , also writes the interesting script along with prestigious screenwriters as Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez and Rafael Azcona , Luis Garcia Berlanga's ordinary . Filmed in his usual formal and luxurious style , without leaving a trace the joyful themes , in terms of dramatic and narrative excitement . The film is light and never somber, no small accomplishment from Fernando Trueba and his team . Very good secondary cast formed by Spanish familiar faces such as Gabino Diego , Agustin Gonzalez , Maria Galiana , Juan Jose Otegui , Mary Carmen Ramirez , Chus Lampreave : Almodovar's usual and the French Michel Galabru . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Jose Luis Alcaine , one of the best Spanish cameramen . Gorgeous exteriors filmed in Portugal ; Fernando Trueba shot the movie in Portugal for two main reasons : 1) he couldn't find any place similar to what he had in mind in Spain and 2) the use of that Portuguese location allowed him to empathize the tone of fable the story required . Jolly as well as sensitive musical score by Antoine Duhamel , including Non-Original music by Pablo Sorozábal from opera "La Taberna del Puerto" and some catching song as when Gabino comes to serenade Rocìo, he sings "Las Mañanitas" which in México is used to celebrate a birthday .

    This simple , attractive and delightful motion picture was well directed by Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba , as the flick is entertaining and well worth your time . His first success was Ópera Prima (1980) following the style of the "Madrid comedy". Trueba had major success with Sé Infiel y No mires Quién (1985) also known as : Be Wanton and Tread No Shame , starting a longer collaboration with the producer Andrés Vicente Gómez . He went on directing numerous successes such as Coarse salt , Too Much , Year of Enlightment , Milagro de Candeal , Niña De Tus Ojos or The Girl of Your Dreams , Calle 54 , Embrujo De Shanghai , Chico and Rita and recently : The Artist and the Model. The multi-award winner in Spain Fernando Trueba was President of the Spanish Academy of Motion Picture Arts and he received the 1994 Oscar for Best Foreign Film to Belle Epoque (1992)and when accepting his Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, director (Fernando Trueba) said: "I would like to believe in God in order to thank him for this prize, but I only believe in (Billy Wilder), so... Thank you, Mr. Wilder!". Wilder himself reportedly phoned Trueba a few days later for acknowledgment and told him: "Hello Fernando, I'm God".
  • The plot, this is a movie about a straggler that is taken in by a local Spanish elder who happens to have 4 very beautiful and very single daughters. In the next hour, the straggler ends up having relations with all four daughters. The side story of the Spanish civil war and the relationship between the 4 sisters and their parents is simple background to the main plot of sexual desire and the tension that becomes to obvious to hide. A beautiful cast of people, the ending is somewhat sad, but true. A nice film, and surprisingly, no nudity? Still, it is a nice "sexy" film.
  • Belle Epoque has many layers. At it's core is a romance which is surrounded and disguised by a classic sex farce that is itself enveloped by a philosophical tale all wrapped up in a bittersweet historical setting. Spain is, as throughout it's history, in a political struggle. In this case, a battle between the dying monarchy and the emergent republic which is,as these things go, a mild one leaving most Spaniards to enjoy their lives during this "Belle Epoque". Those familiar with it's history know that this is the short calm before the storm of the Spanish Civil War in which the Republic is replaced by the Fascist dictatorship of Franco through a bloody war. My favorite setpiece is the dance where Violeta wears Fernando's uniform and dresses him in a ball gown and wig; the rest must be seen to be believed! A lovely film! And why the devil isn't it on DVD!?
  • Wow, what a terrific movie. I didn't expect much. I'm watching the end at 4:40am in the morning, and wondering why I haven't seen this movie before. It has something that you'll only find in a Spanish film. A type of humor that is missing in American movies, or maybe, just doesn't work in English. I don't know. All I know is that the movie is tremendously humorous. The actors are all fantastic. Penelope Cruz is, well, Penelope Cruz, but otherwise the movie is wonderful. DO NOT MISS IT.
  • =G=25 September 2002
    "Belle Epoque" is a light-hearted comedy romp which tells of the goings-on at a Spanish villa (circa 1931) involving a patriarch, his four beautiful and amorous daughters, and a wayward young man who can't say "no". Fanciful, warm, fun, and sexy, this Oscar winning film flows like honey as it aims for the heart, not the crotch or head, and hits the mark. Most likely to be appreciated by more seasoned viewers with an interest in Europics. (A-)

    Note - This film has considerable dialogue making for significant subtitle reading for non-Spanish speakers.
  • Johnny B4 September 1998
    Belle Epoque is one of those movies you don't see every weekend at the theatre. It is a film set in a certain age (in this case: Spain during the times of the civil war), where the age itself is not very important, but it effects the way the story evolves. The best thing of all in this film is the acting and the comedy. The farce is excellent - hardly ever seen a film with such intelligent humourism. The first time I saw the film was in Spanish and I laughed my guts out (even though I do not know Spanish a lot ). The story too is not too complicated and at the same time it is not at all banal. The highlight of the film, in my opinion, is when the wife of Manolo goes to visit him and starts singing an aria from some opera. Some of the comic highlights of this movie are when Rojio is asked to try her mother-in-law -to-be's wedding dress and when Juanito enters her bed. The best quote from the film is Clara's: "A Woman cannot stay without a man, especially at night." Anyway, just about everything about this movie is great. Well, in short, WATCH IT
  • Comical (farce at times), deeply human movie about an army deserter who meets up with a kindly, old, artistic gent who offers him refuge. The deserter is packed up and ready to go, until the artist's four beautiful daughters arrive. This sets in motion a plot that will keep you laughing, dialogue that will keep you thinking and characters that will keep you entertained. The humor is not forced and the chuckle is at life's absurdities, politics, most of all, human nature. Momma's entrance into the story is unique and melodic, to say the least. The movie is kind of kooky and not a by-the-numbers flick, and a satisfying watch. Sidebar: It did get the Oscar nod for Best Foreign Film.
  • A man being seduced by four beautiful sisters; no other comment should be necessary. But this movie has excellent character development, funny dialogues, beautiful cinematography and an irresistible overall charm. Although this movie might be more enjoyable to guys (like me), I don't think any woman would find it offensive at all. It's a very enjoyable movie
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Charming, sexy, oddball and funny romantic comedy, though with a dark backdrop.

    In pre-Franco Spain, a sweet young man, a carefree pacifistic, deserts the army. Wandering about the countryside, he's welcomed into the home of the well-off older gentleman, who's eager for a friend.

    Everything changes when the old man's 4 beautiful daughters arrive! What follows is a charming summer romance for the deserter, who sits smilingly on the sidelines as the four girls literally fight for his attentions.

    Minor characters, like the nerdy suitor of one of the girls, or the older man's opera-singing wife, add a mostly charming, wacky quality.
  • yalamm14 May 2006
    Belle Époque is an outstanding film. Maribel Verdu looks absolutely beautiful. Actually, all the main characters do. The film's brilliance lies in a wonderfully genuine portrayal of everyday life. You'll be disappointed if you decide to watch this movie somewhere in the middle of the X-Men trilogy. While there may be no action heroes in this one, there's plenty of action, and it's done with the utmost taste and style. That's reason enough for watching. It's not a porno though, but here's something it definitely is. Unlike Hollywood's unrealistically gut wrenching dramas filled with the tearful screams of assaulted women, fueled by an ever growing number of one dimensionally cruel men, all done in an attempt to present a sophisticated analysis of everyday life, this movie actually presents a sophisticated analysis of everyday life! Belle Époque manages to avoid a single blow, scream or any other action for that matter not belonging in real life. Except maybe the very first scene, which redeems itself by being so unpretentiously philosophical. Instead, we get a wonderful rare glimpse of the very same awkwardly confusing moments, timid desires and childishly idealistic hopes that seem to littler our own lives. To summarize the plot, a young Spanish soldier first meets a middle aged/old man, and then meets his 4 beautiful daughters. There are several sub-plots, based on the various political and social changes sweeping through Spain at the time. These diversions from the character's lives actually end up seamlessly integrated with the main plot, because Spain's political and social unrest actually ends up effecting the actions of all the characters the same way it probably effected everyone who actually lived through it. By all means, check this one out.
  • SnoopyStyle9 November 2018
    It's the winter of 1930. The Spanish civil war is building. Fernando deserts the Army. After months of wandering the countryside, he gets arrested when he's found with a bible. The policemen argue about letting him go and get themselves killed. Fernando befriends the elderly Manolo who introduces him to his four beautiful daughters. Clara is still mourning her husband. Violeta is a lesbian. Rocío (Maribel Verdú) is being wooed by a young man from a rich family. The youngest Luz (Penélope Cruz) is the innocent. He has a fling with each one but they all fall apart in turn until Luz.

    There is some fun to this movie. The main drawback is Fernando. It's no doubt that Jorge Sanz is a beautiful boy but he is a boy among women. By reason of the plot, he can't be the pursuer of the sisters. Time and time again, things happen to him instead of the other way around. It's also a bit of a male fantasy movie. The humor struggles to rise above the awkwardness. For example, the opening with the two policemen is gallows humor but the suicide is off-putting. It would be infinitely funnier if he simply slip away while the two men argued. I understand the humor but some of it struck me wrong. Overall, there is some fun and there are the four beautiful individual female characters.
  • Belle Epoque is a movie with multiple social, political, and religious contrasts. Directed by Fernando Trueba, the tragic comedy presents a curious excerpt of pre-republican Spain. Death and life, rich and poor, agnostic and religious, libertine and monarchist, deserter and loyalist, old and young, marriage and divorce, trust and deceit, love and hate, past and future; these make an incomplete list of the complex sub-structures within the movie. In my opinion, the sensational arrival of Amalia becomes the focal point and, in turn, she becomes the embodiment of all the contrasts in order that one can more clearly understand the Spain of 1931 (in the imagination of the scriptwriter, of course).All the contrasts of the characters are joyously poised at the precipitous edge of a fleeting belle époque. Almost every contrast is sensationalized within the character of Amalia. She makes an emphatic entrance as the enthusiastic artist which contrasts starkly with the artistic dearth of Manolo. Her presence represents the shock value which cultural contrasts can impose upon society.

    As such, Belle époque is a masterpiece of the deconstruction of an episodic society. The indeterminate machinations of social contrasts invigorate life with definition and purpose. Trueba show us how they affect the sub-structures of culture just as tranquilly as the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide.
  • be_leafer26 April 2002
    What an amusing, beautifully done movie. Just this one point to add: it has a father who is neither dysfunctional nor a buffoon but a wise, compassionate mentor offering subtle, wry commentary throughout - how refreshing. I laughed the whole way through.
  • I picked up this movie just because the branch of Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) near my workplace had it. And what a delight it was!

    Now let me be honest: I was attracted to the movie the moment I saw Maribel Verdú (Rocío) in it. I remember her (and more so, her ample breasts, though perhaps augmented with silicone!) from y Tu Mama Tambien. Unfortunately for me, she never showed her breasts (though I could be certain that she stuffed silicone after this movie was made), this movie turned out to be very entertaining. Penelope Cruz, who spoke English like a horse (would do) in "Vanilla Sky" (one of the very few movies in my life that I could not finish, not even halfway), was innocent, fresh, beautiful, likable and very natural in this movie.

    This movie also proved that Gabo's description of Serenade in his books is not at all exaggerated.

    However, the greatest performance was by Juanito (Gabino Diego). I was blown by the scene where he goes to the church to renounce his faith, and then when he decides to retain his faith, having denied "republican" free love. It was hilarious! Great entertainment!!!
  • In 1931 Spain an Army deserter, Fernando (Jorge Sanz) comes upon an elderly farmer and his four incredibly beautiful unmarried daughters. Fernando himself is also unbelievably handsome...he's attracted to the girls and they're all attracted to him. Basically it turns into a sex farce with Fernando sleeping with all of them but he can only love one.

    Just incredible. It takes a time-worn plot and makes it appear fresh and new. There's also some talk about politics of the time (which I know nothing about) but even THAT was interesting!

    The film is lushly photographed--the scenery is just beautiful in each and every shot. Also Sanz is one of the most gorgeous men I've ever seen and all the girls are just breath-taking. Add to that a very funny, sharp script (I LOVE the scene when the mother arrives home and how she announces it) and a very strong, erotic feel to it. Despite the strong sexual tone there is next to no nudity in the film. Sanz is always clothed (there's a brief shot of his chest) and we get a glimpse of a pair of breasts--but that's it. Still, the feeling is in there. This is most definetely NOT a film for the kids. And it has a slightly bitter sweet but very happy ending.

    Basically a beautiful, funny, gorgeous movie. Don't miss this one!
  • Fernando Trueba's film was awarded a few prizes when it was shown originally. On second viewing recently, I thought it was perhaps over praised. This story of a Spain before its own Civil War is picaresque in tone, and doesn't predict what will happen in the country in a few years, as it plays for whatever laughs it can get.

    Fernando makes out like a bandit. After deserting the army, he ends up befriending Manolo, a local artist. Manolo is an anarchist, but that doesn't mean he is best friends with the local priest, who by the way, feels at home in the church as well as in the local brothel. Trueba is perhaps telling us about the duplicity of the clergy in Spain.

    Fernando ends up making love to Manolo's four daughters. Even Violeta, who is a lesbian, has her turn with Fernando, but only when he has dressed as a woman for the local carnival. There are no jealousies from any one of the sisters because each one has her turn in a civilized way, or the way it should be!

    Fernando Fernan Gomez is the patriarch Manolo. As always, he delivers. Jorge Sanz, as the rascal Fernando, is not as effective as in other films. Maribel Verdu is fine as Rocio, the sister who wants to get married to the local rich boy, Juanito, but she has no problems in having a good time with Fernando. Penelope Cruz, before Hollywood, is effective as Luz, the youngest sister. Finally, Chus Lampreave makes a funny appearance as Dona Asun, the mother of Juanito.
  • I have recently become a fan of international films. I have seen a few films from France and Germany. In the past weeks, I have seen films from Spain and Mexico. So far, my favorite actresses from outside the USA have been Franka Potente and Penelope Cruz. I think both will end up with awesome careers in their respective lifetimes.

    Speaking of Penelope Cruz, she has amassed an awarding career in the Spanish mainstream. One of her early roles was in a little films called "Belle epoque" as the youngest of four daughters in a rather eccentric clan controlled by a laid back, republican father. A rather young army deserter encounters this eccentric family and he ends in a rather complex but humorous set of events. Eventually, he gets into bed with all four of them and hilarity ensues. It was laughing most of the way through it. Overall, this is a great film worthy of it's praise. I give it a 9 out of 10!

    In reality, this is more of a male fantasy than anything else even though it is set against the backdrop of life before the Spanish Civil War. I think it explains why the deserter sleeps with four beautiful women. Anyway, here ends my rant!
  • Somehow we missed this 1992 Oscar winner for best foreign film until Oct. 2002 when it was broadcast on Starz. What a joy! Gorgeously filmed with great scenery, beautiful music score, and lovely character development of an amusing, poignant and totally steamy story of a young and beautiful soldier in 1931 Spain who deserts from the army and takes refuge with an eclectic artist in his farm house - and then his 4 georgous daughters (including Penélope Cruz) come home for a vacation. The ensuing romp is predicable but has lots of humorous twists. Filled with delightful characters, including the artist's zarzuela diva wife who shows up with her cockled manager-lover, this flick is a delight. Oh, did I mention it was steamy?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The bulk of 'Belle Epoque' is supposed to be a pastoral romance, a farce of sorts despite being set during the heady eve of the Spanish Civil War in 1931. The film begins inappropriately with our protagonist, Fernando, an army deserter, having just been taken into custody by two officers of the Civil Guard who happen to be father and son-in-law. The father-in-law wants to let Fernando go but the son-in-law, a Nationalist, can't stomach the idea of allowing a 'traitor' to walk free so impulsively he shoots his father-in-law to death but realizing he'll have to face his wife later on and tell her that he's responsible for killing her father, ends up killing himself. Not a very good idea to start off with such an unpleasant scene when most of your story is supposed to be comic in tone.

    Fernando arrives in a village and seeks to patronize a prostitute at the local brothel. We find out the local priest has no guilt feelings about playing cards with his buddies inside the brothel. There, Fernando meets one of the priest's fellow card players, Manolo, a retired artist, who invites him to stay at his house. Like most people in the village, Manolo is decidedly pro-Republican and is thoroughly tolerant of alternative lifestyles. Fernando is about to return to Madrid but changes his mind when Manolo's four daughters arrive by train.

    Since this is a farce, we're supposed to suspend our disbelief when each of the four daughters falls for the rather passive Fernando with the libertine Manolo encouraging the randy Lothario as he beds each woman.

    One of the daughters, Violeta, is an independent woman who works as a veterinarian and also happens to be a lesbian. When the daughters dress Fernando up as a maid for a costume party at a local carnival, Violeta dresses herself up in Fernando's army uniform and then ends up having sex with him inside a barn at the carnival. In a scene more titillating than erotic, Fernando passively lies underneath in his maid's costume as Violeta makes love to him on top. The next day, Fernando informs Manolo of the encounter and he's overjoyed that his daughter now has shown an interest in men. Violeta squelches any possibilities that she has an interest in the opposite sex and makes it clear to her father that in effect the previous night's encounter was simply 'role-playing' and she really has no interest in Fernando.

    Despite her great attraction to Fernando, Rocio, another one of Manolo's daughters, has been involved with Juanito, a son of a wealthy Royalist widow, who has difficulty escaping the clutches of his control freak mother. There are some rather unfunny scenes with the mother going after Rocio and Juanito even goes so far as to demand that he be excommunicated from the church by the local priest in order to prove to Rocio he's no longer a mamma's boy. At the same time, Rocio strings Juanito along but eventually realizes that they were made for each other and end up marrying.

    Fernando also tries to prove his mettle with Clara, who lost her husband a year before in a drowning accident. The film's scenarists try to extract some humor in a reference to the deceased husband's last meal. Clara mentions that he loved rice and her sister states it was the only dish he knew how to cook. Clara then lamely replies, "I know". Clara becomes so confused over her feelings for Fernando, that she ends up pushing him into the river, in the same spot where her ex-husband drowned. Fernando contracts pneumonia and the daughters then have to attend to him to ensure that he recovers.

    The last daughter, Luz (played by Penelope Cruz), is perhaps the least interesting of the four daughters. She's simply childish and is jealous of her three sisters who have already become involved with Fernando. I'm not sure exactly why Fernando ends up with Luz (perhaps he feels sorry for her) but the young couple are seen leaving for America at film's end.

    In addition to the sour note of the murder/suicide at the start of the film, there's also another unsavory moment when the priest kills himself after he feels betrayed by his hero, poet/philosopher Miguel de Unamono, who for a short while supported Franco and the Nationalists.

    Belle Epoque fails not only for its two brief unnecessary forays into tragedy (the death of the Civil Guards and the Priest suicide) but because the principal characters are decidedly superficial and hence inconsequential. Violeta is basically mean-spirited (recall her unchivalrous tirade after Fernando informs her father of their fling); Rocio is a shallow coquette in regards to her relationship with Juanito, the foolish Clara is disconnected, unable to truly grieve over her lost husband and Luz is simply an immature adolescent. As for Fernando, his behavior with the four daughters speaks for itself!

    Only Manolo, the intuitive libertine, comes across as somewhat multi-dimensional character. He's seen as particularly likable when he's willing to accept his opera singer wife's manager who he's quite aware has been involved with her while they've been on tour. Manolo is also a philosopher--I particularly liked when he reads a sensual passage from the 'The Magic Mountain' and concludes with the line: "What youth!".

    As a point of comparison, there's a British/Irish film made in 2000 entitled 'About Adam' which has a very similar storyline to Belle Epoque. A young Lothario ingratiates his way into a household consisting mainly of women who have become besotted with him. Both are farcical in tone but 'Adam' manages to exude a slight bit more charm than the specious 'Epoque'.

    'Belle' is the perfect kind of mediocre film which you would expect would win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language feature. It was safe and offended no one which guaranteed all the awards and accolades it managed to garner.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    BELLE EPOQUE it set in the time of the "beautiful era" (ergo, the film's title) in Spain, although it had ended in France and the rest of Europe by 1931, the year in which the events of Fernando Trueba's movie take place. While less a movie about the arts and culture and the milieu, this is a lush, romantic comedy about a young man, Fernando, who deserts his duty and finds himself seeking refuge at the villa of a old man, Don Manolo, who is as conservative as a Martian is green. There he encounters his four daughters: Clara, Violeta, Rocio, and Luz -- all stunning, all single, and all besotted by him. Of course, Don Manolo fears he will lose a friend with the continued presence of Fernando at his house because he knows they will eventually pounce on him, and he'll have to marry one of them. It's not a question of who -- early on, it's pretty clear who Fernando will wind up marrying -- but the road to their elopement is fun as Fernando becomes acquainted with each one of the young women, all markedly different in temper. A standout is a scene involving Ferando's tryst with Violeta at a costume party. She is dressed as a gendarme, he as a maid. The role reversal is absolutely delightful, and Ariadna Gil's masculine personality as Violeta comes out full force as she is the one to take charge and make love to Fernando as all he can do is lay back and enjoy the time. Of course, the punch-line comes next morning when Don Manolo hears of this, and exclaims, "It's a miracle!" Fernando, however, is a little more dense and it takes Violeta's vicious tongue lashing to make him know she may not prefer the male sex as much as her own. A uniformly brilliant cast of veterans and rising actors, all Goya nominated numerous times: Fernando Fernan Gomez, Maribel Verdu, Ariadna Gil, Jorge Sanz, Miriam Diaz-Aroca, and Penelope Cruz right at the dawn of her career, barely eighteen, showing the promise of the great actress she would become in later years. A beautiful film on the lines of ENCHANTED APRIL, one that has a flawless, self-contained prologue as two soldiers who have captured Fernando at his desertion argue over a banality. One kills the other, then in a moment of hilarious desperation (filled with typical Spanish curses), he shoots himself because, as he says, "What will my wife think? This was a good man! I've killed him over nothing!" Somewhere, the master of absurd films -- Luis Bunuel -- should be smiling if ever he seems this film Up There.
  • I am not a big fan of the romantic comedy genre, but this is incredible. Besides the witty dialogue and the gorgeous scenery, it has some of the most beautiful actresses ever put into one movie. Absolutely blew me away the first time I saw it!
  • A better movie you aren't likely to see. Marvelously paced so as to let the characters develop yet never seems slow. The humor is excellent and never seems forced or out of place. Rather than depend on one-liners, the film maker lets the humor derive from the plot. This is not a Hollywood movie so there are no buildings blown up or cars wrecked, but rather a delightful story that will make you laugh out loud and cheer the hero on.
  • Belle Epoque successfully transports you to the civil war Spain, although the political elements remain mainly in the background. It strongly succeeds in creating a sexy atmosphere around the beautiful daggers of a retired Spaniard. Penelope Cruz is gorgeous as the youngest sister, but it would be hard to resist Maribel Verdu's appeal as a passionate power female or Aridna Gil as the confident lesbian. The charm of the film for me resided mainly around the subtleness of the erotic ambiance. One of the most appealing aspects of the film is the use of strong Spanish expressions from the "epoque", they set a very authentic and natural tone. Unfortunately, the charm of this rough language might be lost in translation.
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