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Film / Begin the Beguine

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Begin the Beguine ("Volver a empezar", which actually translates to "Start Over") is a 1982 film from Spain directed by Jose Luis Garci.

Antonio Albajara is a famous writer and man of letters. He is a Spaniard, but he was an opponent of The Franco Regime so he fled Spain in 1938, and wound up spending some forty years writing and teaching in the United States. Generalissimo Francisco Franco died in 1975 and in 1981 he is still dead, so after receiving the Nobel Prize in literature in Switzerland, Antonio returns to Spain. He arrives at his old hometown, the sea port of Gijón, and looks up an old school friend from his youth, as well as his old girlfriend Elena. Antonio has a secret, which he shared with his school friend but not with Elena: he is dying of cancer.



  • As You Know: A lot of this when Antonio and Elena are recounting to each other their first date. Justified as they are in "remember when" mode.
  • Call-Back: Antonio reminisces about how he bought Elena a record of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" in 1936. Fast forward 45 years and to the end of the movie, and Antonio, back in America, opens the package that she gave him...and it's the same record, which she kept ever since.
  • December–December Romance: Antonio and Elena resparking their romance in their old age. Antonio even muses about how young people don't believe old people can fall in love and be passionate.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: The word "cancer" is never used but cancer is obviously what Antonio has. He is still ambulatory and by all appearances fine, but "Redhead" confirms the diagnosis of about six months to live, and Antonio asks if the end will be painful.
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  • Hypocritical Humor: Mr. Losada, the hotel manager and comic relief character, tells the bellhop to tidy up one of the rooms. As the bellhop is going upstairs Losada shouts "Don't smoke!" Then Losada lights up a cigarette.
  • Old Flame: Antonio visits his home town after 43 years away, specifically to look up his old girlfriend Elena.
  • The One That Got Away: Elena is this for Antonio. He tells her about how he was always thinking about her when he wrote his books, and he wondered if she would like them.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Antonio's old friend "Redhead" ("Roxu"), who eventually became a doctor, and who hosts a celebratory dinner for Antonio at the sports club, is only ever called by that nickname.
  • Recurring Riff: Pachelbel's Canon is heard repeatedly throughout the film, in fact consisting of most of the soundtrack, except for "Begin the Beguine" a couple of times.
  • Secretly Dying: Antonio doesn't want to tell Elena that he's dying. He even goes so far as to agree for her to come visit him in San Francisco the next year, although she picks up on the odd look on his face when he does so.
  • Shout Out: Antonio recites a Spanish translation of the poem "Splendor in the Grass" by William Wordsworth. When Antonio and Elena were young they used to call each other Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And of course both Antonio and Elena remember Cole Porter's song "Begin the Beguine".
  • Skinnydipping: In the backstory, as Elena remembers how she went skinnydipping in the ocean on a dare from Antonio and his buddies.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The first time Pachebel's Canon plays on the soundtrack is in the opening scene, when Antonio gets off the train station and looks at—a rather dirty and unimpressive industrial area. The rest of Gijón is nicer.
  • Title Drop: Only in English! Antonio remembers buying a copy of "Begin the Beguine" for Elena.
  • Titled After the Song: Only in English! The English-language title is "Begin the Beguine", taken from the Cole Porter song that Antonio bought for Elena when they were dating.
  • The Voice: How famous is Antonio? He takes a call in his hotel from King Juan Carlos. All we hear is the king's voice on the phone.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Antonio is terminally ill from cancer. He has six, maybe seven months.

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