Blu-ray Review: Belle Époque

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

Winner of the 1993 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, I first saw Belle Époque in a 1994 college film class. While the movie also served as my introduction to Penelope Cruz, I remember being far more impressed by the fact that director Fernando Trueba obviously took some inspiration from one of my show business idols, Billy Wilder. Similar to Wilder’s classic Some Like it Hot, Belle Époque focuses on the ridiculous things that can happen when a man is led by his libido.

In 1931, with the Spanish monarchy in its last days, Fernando (Jorge Sanz), whose allegiance is to the republic, goes AWOL from the army. After a strange encounter with two policemen, Fernando finds himself in a small village. There he meets an old man, Manolo (Fernando Fernán Gómez), and artist, who declares himself an anarchist. Manolo doesn’t care that Fernando is a deserter; he’s happy to have a visitor, and the two men quickly form a friendship. The men are interrupted by the announcement that Manolo’s four sexy daughters are coming for a visit. The old man asks Fernando to go away, believing that if the younger man meets any of his daughters, Manolo will gain a son-in-law and lose a friend.

Reluctantly, Fernando agrees to leave–but when he catches sight of the four women getting off the train he’s immediately smitten. There’s the recently widowed Clara (Miriam Diaz-Aroca), who has finally overcome her grief; Violeta (Ariadna Gil), who we gather is a lesbian; Rocio (Maribel Verdu) sensual and spirited; and Luz (Penelope Cruz, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) the youngest, and innocent, who doesn’t want to be. When Fernando’s train pulls out, he finds himself unable to board. Manolo invites him back to the house.

What follows is somewhat unexpected. Fernando finds himself seduced by each of the daughters, and he falls in love with each of them. Predictably, his true love is the women he virtually ignores until the film is almost over. Everyone and everything is beautifully photographed. There’s a sense of humor that runs throughout the story. After all, this is the time in Spain just before the rise of fascism.

Herein lies Manolo’s dilemma. Despite being an anarchist, he really has nothing to rebel against. His life is rather satisfying. He works as a self-employed artist, and as a father he’s blessed. While we know tough times lay ahead for Spain, it is his Manolo’s contentment that makes for such a warm film.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks lovely. Sharpness is better than expected, and there are no visual abnormalities to report. Shadow delineation is a bit lacking in some shots, but color saturation and balance are satisfying. Fans should be pleased with this release.

The Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track provides clean, clear, and concise dialogue exchanges throughout.

English subtitles are included.

There are no extras available.

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