Belle Epoque

Movie Information

Belle Epoque, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Director: Fernando Trueba
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Miriam Díaz Aroca, Gabino Diego, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Ariadna Gil, Jorge Sanz
Rated: R

It’s easy to believe that Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba was serious when he said, “I would like to believe in God in order to thank him for this prize, but I only believe in Billy Wilder … thank you, Mr. Wilder!” upon receiving his Oscar for Belle Epoque (1992). His film brims with both secular humanism and a strong sense of classic Hollywood filmmaking. Indeed, the amazing arrival sequence of fading opera-star Amalia (Mary Carmen Ramírez)—mother of the four girls at the center of the narrative—might be straight out of a 1930s Ernst Lubitsch musical comedy. (And in many ways, Lubitsch is the precursor to Billy Wilder.) At the same time, there’s something of Jean Renoir about Belle Epoque—not to mention a good deal that’s unique to Trueba, who manages to turn what could have been a lowbrow sex farce into something at once funny and sweetly innocent.

The story follows army-deserter Fernando (Jorge Sanz), who, after a truly strange—and bleakly comic—encounter with a couple of policemen, ends up in a small village. There he meets a crusty old man, Manolo (Fernando Fernán Gómez), who, thwarted in his desires to thumb his nose at the status quo, takes him in. A friendship—predicated in large part on agnostic ex-seminary student Fernando’s ability to cook—springs up between the two and then is interrupted by the arrival of Manolo’s four daughters. The old man attempts to prevent Fernando from meeting them, but fails, whereupon Fernando ends up falling in love—at least briefly—with each daughter. Everyone and everything in this beautifully photographed, sun-dappled film is observed with keen sympathy and good humor, resulting in a wholly delightful film of a type rarely seen.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.