All in the Name of Education
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 04/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alfredo ("Talk to Her" Javier Camara) is at the end of his rope financially. His business is selling 10 leather-bound deluxe volumes of the Encyclopedia of the Spanish Civil War, door to door...and business is not good. So bad in fact that he has to sneak in to his apartment every evening so as to avoid his landlady.
But despite this, Alfredo is a lucky man because he has a truly great relationship, emotional and sexual with his wife Carmen (Candela Pena) which eases the pain and humiliation that Alfredo feels when he returns home every night, empty handed and with empty pockets.
Then Alfredo's boss decides to switch products from encyclopedias to a product produced by the "Copenhagen Institute of Sexual Research." What it boils down to is that Alfredo and Carmen are enlisted to film themselves, along with the help of Swedish coaches, having sex.
The filming, with the coaches urging and directing the action, is hilarious particularly when Carmen and Alfredo are asked to dress up: Carmen as a nurse, a bride and Alfredo as a bulging deliveryman and a soccer player to name a few of the disguises. Bare in mind that this film is set in Franco's supposedly chaste Spain of the 1970's and the film takes on the patina of an outlaw production but recalled from a new millennium perspective that adds to the ersatz disconnect between "reel" reality and reality that only makes the film's comedy deeper and more meaningful.
Director Pablo Berger has kept his film light and airy and Camara and Pena turn in subtle, ironic performances that miraculously stay on the bright, non-sleazy and somehow innocent side of their "work" and never fall into the doomed, druggy dismal world popularized in films like "Boogie Nights."
Sorry this is only for the broadminded
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 03/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Pablo Berger's debut feature film, Torremolinos 73, is something of a curiosity, combining Spanish with Scandinavian sensibilities. Set in Franco's Spain of the early `70s, the plot revolves around an unexceptional couple Alfredo (Javier Camara, Talk to Her (Hable con Ella)) and Carmen Lopez (Candela Pena, All About My Mother). Alfredo is an door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, but isn't selling much of anything. Since he is paid on commission, he is behind on his bills and can't afford the child that his wife Carmen wants so desperately. When he is summoned to the boss's office, he fears the worst, but instead is invited with his wife to the company's first off-site conference. The theme of the conference is something of a shock. The boss is collaborating with a Danish company which is publishing a video encyclopedia of the mating habits of the world. The initial volumes have been huge sellers. Alfredo's boss gives his few remaining salesmen a choice: they can become unemployed, or they can film themselves having sex with their wives for the Spanish volume of the encyclopedia. Since there is a large cash payment for each completed film, plus commissions on sales, they go for it.
Carmen is very shy at first, but gradually warms to performing for the camera, and Alfredo becomes hooked on directing. When Carmen is accosted by a Danish tourist with a camera in a department store, the couple learns that she has become a famous porn star in Denmark. Alfredo then begins to fancy himself a real filmmaker, but not of porn loops. He hopes to emulate his idol, Ingmar Bergman. He writes a script which is essentially a remake of The Seventh Seal - Criterion Collection, re-located to the resort town of Torremolinos. Fortunately, Alfredo's boss also has the movie bug, and decides to produce the film with Alfredo directing and Carmen as the lead. Carmen is less enthusiastic about her new fame. She still wants to have that baby, and she now has the money, but Alfredo turns out to have defective sperm.
The movie production goes reasonably well until the boss rewrites the ending to have Carmen do a sex scene with her young attractive costar.
When Berger was asked why he chose to write this kind of film for his debut, he answered with a smile, "I am a film buff. Also, I like pornography, and I like the '70s. So the answer was clear to me." It's a wonderful premise, and is nothing short of brilliant for the first two acts. Act three, the actual movie within a movie, isn't nearly as entertaining as the first two thirds of the film, but overall it was a great idea written with real wit and executed beautifully by two great leads supported by an all-star cast.
Saw it at the Miami Film Festival 2004
Alejandro Mora | Los Angeles, CA | 10/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Absolutly loved this movie! If you like foreign films I higly recommend you see this. It's a very funny and original film that I got to see in the Miami Film Fest of 2004 and was by far the best movie I saw in the festival. The director Pablo Berger was also there and conducted a great Q&A session at the end of the film. Again, highly recommended!"
Casablanca Test Approved
Helloearl | Brooklyn, NY | 03/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set in early 1970s Spain, this buoyantly wry film begins with doors closing in paradise, proceeds to matters of the flesh, and culminates in a deal with the devil. Then, heretically, tops the whole thing off with proof of a living, breathing, man-made golden miracle.
The paradise is the MY PARADISE Apartments where, as the film opens, door after door is being shut in the face of a bowed but stoically undaunted encyclopedia salesman named Alfredo Lopez (Camara). He owes three months rent, his wife Carmen (Pena) is nagging him about having a baby and he's about to be fired after 15 years on the job. What to do? His boss, the diabolical Don Carlos of Montoya Publishers, seems to know. He suggests that Alfredo and Carmen make educational films about "Spanish reproductive customs" for a Swedish-Spanish business collaboration of his called THE WORLD AUDIOVISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF REPRODUCTION. A former assistant of Ingmar Bergman is on had to show Alfredo how to make them.
The plot thickens when Alfredo proves such a quick study that he's awarded Bergman's bull horn. With that and Don Carlos' commission in hand, Alfredo and Carmen set to work and in almost no time at all a new, and extremely lucrative, door opens up for the Lopez family.
There is nothing to dislike about this movie as scene after delightful scene is filled with interesting characters, compelling images, wry humor, pleasant surprise, bitter truth and the beautiful naked body of Carmen. Small wonder then at what happens when Alfredo is ushered into the room of a fertility clinic and asked to make a donation. Though the walls are covered with photographs of attractive, but clothed, women he still finds himself, well, uninspired. Until, resourcefully, he reaches into his wallet, takes out a picture of Carmen, pastes that on the wall, and gets down to business. Little does he suspect that hordes of Norsemen might be equally resourceful.
There's a hint of beastly pleasure in a delicious bit that finds a middle-aged woman alone in bed completing a jigsaw puzzle of (what else?) a rhinoceros. Suddenly moans and the creaking of bedsprings are heard. Quickly, she realizes that Carmen and Alfredo are at it again. Displeased initially. she slowly succumbs to the rhythm of the beat and leans closer to the wall to better appreciate their filmmaking. In a beauty salon another middle-aged woman is beside herself because she's just been to Brando's latest film, circa 1972, and didn't appreciate what was on the screen. So much so that in between waxings she complains, "I thought LAST TANGO IN PARIS was a musical!"
The cast is wonderful. The dialogue is witty. The director's touch is as light as Lubitsch's. Only here the cameras, Pablo's and Alfredo's, do go into the bedroom.