Belle Epoque, written by Rafael Azcona, Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez, Fernando Trueba and directed by the latter
Belle Epoque is ebullient, magnificent, glorious, divine, spectacular, effervescent, exhilarating and we could go on like this forever.
This is one of the best fifty films this movie goes has ever seen…maybe one of the best twenty…or is it ten?
This Heavenly Film has won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the BAFTA and another twenty-four prizes.
Nevertheless, one could expect it to get some feminist criticism in the age of ME Too, in spite of circumstances.
Belle Epoque has a series of four beauties and a strong character in their mother, Amalia, a singer and passionate woman.
Amalia is married to Manolo, but comes back to their house with her…lover and financier, manager of her operetta tours.
Furthermore, Violeta, one of her gorgeous daughters, is actually a “hombre” as her father puts it.
Still, the idea of a young man having sex with…ALL! These four celestial, ethereal women would have many up in arms…
How could this be? It is surely sexist!
This chinephil would beg to differ and the other view that one could take is that most of these godly, paradisical creatures have actually used the poor man, who is the one to suffer after almost all the experiences.
However, let us return to the tragic and hilarious beginning of this chef d’oeuvre, one of the best films ever…
In 1931, the young hero, Fernando deserts from the army, only to meet with two men in uniform.
In the very first scene, these challenge the protagonist and the superior is willing to let him go, for the political scene is complicated and one never knows what can happen next, while the other wants the suspect jailed.
A confrontation between the two uniformed men ensues and one kills the other, in spite of the fact that he is his father-in-law and once he has done this shooting, he kneels and cries, then…shoots himself.
Fernando meets Manolo, a man who has three frustrations, one of which is to be able to have sex with his wife only.
When the younger protagonist wants to take the train to Madrid, the four daughters of the wise Manolo arrive in the village.
And these are the Goddesses descending from Olympus no less: Violeta, Luz, Clara and Rocio, all of them otherworldly.
Fernando is thunderstruck and returns to the house, with no intention to travel to Madrid anymore.
When they attend a festival with costumes, the attractive young man is dressed as a house cleaner and is seduced by Violeta.
After they make love in a haystack, the young lover is quickly talking to the father about marriage…the only right thing to do under the circumstances, and the parent is overjoyed, if mistrustful…
When he is told that Violeta is the one who is wanted, Manolo is suspicious and then glad, until they talk to her and the woman is rejecting this proposal as nonsense and the father says…you cannot marry a “hombre”.
Fernando will be consoled soon enough, for there are three other women in the house, interested in men, not women as was Violeta’s case, and he makes love to Rocio and Clara, falling in love each time.
However, one of these women had had a previous, convoluted relationship with a humorous character, which brings his obnoxious mother to ask the hand of the woman he loves, has an orchestra to accompany his singing, later gives up his catholic religion and has the local priest confirm this radical move, all for the woman he loves.
It has to be underlined that this Juanito had been very conservative, refusing to dance the tango, because it had been banned by the pope, as too lascivious.
After this dramatic change of heart, Juanito insists that they can have “amor libre”, now that they are no longer restrained by the rules of the church.
Fernando, the fool, is unhappy after having sex with the most desirable Beauty Queens one can imagine!
Instead of enjoying this “fivesome”- this should be the name, right?- he is perpetually unhappy…until he finally gets close to the sensitive, delicate, most innocent, loving, charming Aphrodite aka Luz aka Penelope Cruz.
Belle Epoque is Divine!