Projections - Movie Reviews

Belle Epoque

This film was entitled Belle Epoque since it translates, in any language, as a "beautiful time".  This, in essence, is the spirit of the film; a period of time which the Director, Fernando Trueba, feels will be the "belle epoque" of the central character's life.  Inspired by the real-life relationship of Mr. Trueba and his own father-in-law, it is a story about the discovery of life and, also, about the difficulties of choosing.

Set in Spain, 1931, Fernando, a young, idealistic soldier, has deserted the army and is wandering the countryside trying to live his own life.  At a house of prostitution, where he seeks temporary shelter (among other things), he meets Manolo, an older man busily engaged in a card game.  Manolo, seeing that Fernando is in trouble, takes him in.  Manolo's wife, an opera singer, is away on an extended tour and his four daughters live in Madrid.

Fernando stays with Manolo until he must leave to make room for Manolo's daughters who are to visit their father.  Upon greeting them at the train station, however, Fernando cannot tear himself away.  In failing to do so, his Belle Epoque is born.

He proceeds to sample (or to be more accurate, is sampled by) each of the four daughters.  For three of the four, the encounters are physically exciting and memorable.  For one, the encounter is something purer; spiritual.

This film, the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film, provides a beautiful cast, picturesque scenery and the lovely voice of Mary Carmen Ramirez (as Amalia, Manolo's wife) whose singing is responsible for the richest scene in the film.  Despite these treasures, however, I left the theatre disappointed.  The film lacked the depth I've grown to expect from foreign films.  I liked the characters but didn't feel they were sufficiently revealed to me.  As a visual treat, it was nice.  As a warm, intimate commentary on human nature and life, I don't feel it delivered.

This film is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

Belle Epoque


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