OPENS FRIDAY 24th JUNE
Four out of Five stars
Running time: 94 mins
Hilarious and moving - Torremolinos 73 is an impressively directed film with an intelligent script and a pair of wonderfully sweet performances from its two leads.
Torremolinos 73 was something of a minor hit with audiences when it played at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, so it’s a relief to see the film finally getting the theatrical release it deserves. Directed by Pablo Berger, the film has a lot of fun with its ideas but there’s an underlying seriousness that is frequently moving.
The film is set in 1973, just as a puritanical Spain is beginning to loosen itself from Franco’s grip. This is helpfully symbolised by a montage of people slamming their doors in encyclopaedia salesman Alfredo’s (Javier Camara) face, when he informs them that the books come with a free bust of Franco’s head.
Since no-one is buying the books anymore, Alfredo’s boss (Juan Diego) makes his employees an offer they can’t refuse – the company agrees to help a Danish firm compile a World Audiovisual Encyclopaedia of Reproduction, by filming themselves having sex. Meanwhile, Alfredo’s wife Carmen (Candela Peña) is desperate for a baby, so she agrees to the scheme because of the financial rewards involved.
Alfredo and Carmen gradually become accustomed to their new roles, making all their films in their apartment, despite the prying eyes of their landlady. They are surprised to find that their films become runaway hits, with Carmen considered something of an adult film star in Denmark! Inspired both by his success and his Danish mentor (Thomas Bo Larson), Alfredo begins to develop Bergman-esque cinematic ambitions and dreams of making a feature film. However, when Carmen fails to get pregnant, she makes a discovery that could change everything…
Berger shoots everything in different shades of brown, giving the film the look of a Spanish 1970s movie – there’s also an enormous amount of detail in the set design, from the furnishings of the apartment to the clothes and hairstyles of the characters. Berger also has a lot of fun with the porn movies themselves, sending up porn conventions, while showing us how much the characters are enjoying themselves by dressing up as nurses or hot, sweaty delivery-men.
Javier Camara (from Almodovar’s Talk To Her) gives a terrific comic performance as Alfredo – his embarrassed facial reaction when his landlady spots him dressed as a shirtless delivery-man is only one of several laugh-out-loud moments.
Candela Peña is equally wonderful; she’s extremely sexy in the porn films and heart-breakingly moving during her emotional scenes. There’s also strong support from Larson, Diego, Fernando Tejero (as Alfredo’s weird co-worker) and Danish actor Mads Mikkelson as the good-looking star of Alfredo’s hilariously Bergman-esque feature film, “Torremolinos 73”.
In short, Torremolinos 73 is funnier, sexier and more intelligent than most American comedies and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Highly recommended.