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Film / Belle Époque

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Belle Époque is a 1992 film from Spain directed by Fernando Trueba.

It is not actually set during "La Belle Époque" or The Gay '90s, terms usually applied to the later 19th century or the period between the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War, 1871-1914. Instead it is set in February 1931, in a Spain roiled by the political unrest that eventually led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in April of that year.

Fernando is a young soldier of Republican leanings who has deserted. Wandering across the country by foot, he eventually finds himself at the rural homestead of an artist named Manolo. Manolo has four, count 'em, four extremely good-looking daughters: Clara, a widow; Violeta, a lesbian; Rocio, a curvaceous temptress who is marrying into a royalist family for security; and the youngest, good-hearted Luz (Penélope Cruz in her second film). All four of Manolo's daughters find themselves attracted to handsome, friendly, Fernando, and he to them. Fernando eventually has sex with each daughter in turn, but who will he wind up with? Or will he wind up with any of them?



  • Ate His Gun: The younger soldier who shoots his father-in-law has an immediate My God, What Have I Done? moment. He swallows the business end of his rifle and pulls the trigger with his toe.
  • Blackface: How Luz dresses up for the costume ball.
  • Comforting the Widow: Fernando even says "I will comfort you" as he's embracing Clara at the spot by the river where her husband drowned. Sure enough, sex soon follows, although not until after she chucks him into the river first.
  • Driven to Suicide: Out of nowhere, the cheerful, affable priest hangs himself in his church. The only clue is a note he leaves behind saying that he who kills himself has conquered his fear of death.
  • Instant Illness: Clara pushes Fernando into the river. He's healthy enough when he comes out to have sex with Clara, but by the time they walk back to the house he's contracted pneumonia, and by that night he's sweating and semiconscious in bed.
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  • Intro Dump: Manolo's four daughters are quickly introduced when he greets each in turn as they get off the train from Madrid.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Fernando, who can be surprisingly conventional, thinks he and Violeta will be getting married after their night of passion. He is surprised to be told that Violeta is a lesbian (she was only attracted to him because he was dressed up like a woman).
  • It Will Never Catch On: Manolo confidently asserts, "With Romanones in power, I feel calm. All this republic business will peter out." It didn't.
  • Masquerade Ball: The city holds a big public masquerade ball, which leads to sex between Violeta and Fernando, when the former (dressed up as a soldier) gets turned on by the latter dressed up as a maid (lipstick and all).
  • Match Cut: From the soldiers clapping handcuffs on Antonio's wrists, to another shot of Antonio's wrists as he's being marched along the roadway, hours later after the sun has set.
  • Momma's Boy: Juanito, a whiny weakling who lets his mom boss him around. He decides he must renounce the Catholic Church because his mother wants him to become a monk. It does not occur to him to just say "no".
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Juanito's mom Dona Asuna hates Rocio and would just as soon her son stay single and continue to live with her. This causes problems for Juanito, who is a mama's boy but also is completely enthralled by the gorgeous Rocio.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Manolo going back home alone, after everyone else departs at the train station.
  • Raised as the Opposite Gender: It seems that Violeta's mother really wanted a boy, so Violeta was raised as a boy, put in sailor suits instead of the frilly dresses that would have been the typical clothing for girls. This is said to be why she's a lesbian.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Juanito the idiot brings a band with him to serenade Rocio from the street. She isn't impressed, but he has money so she's marrying him.
  • Sex Comedy: Fernando is about to board a train for Madrid when he sees Manolo's four gorgeous daughters get off the arriving train. All sorts of comic and romantic hijinks ensue as Fernando beds one daughter right after the other, without even really meaning to.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Unlike the scenes with Violeta and Rocio, the camera pans away as Fernando starts to have sex with Clara.
  • Something Else Also Rises: A very overt example. Violeta is enthusiastically riding Fernando and they are both approaching orgasm. She picks up his bugle and blows it tunelessly. Fernando tells her to put her tongue on the mouthpiece and blow. She doesn't quite get it right, and Fernando shouts "Blow, for fuck's sake!" She finally produces a note, and the scene cuts away at that precise moment, presumably the moment of orgasm.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: With a lesbian thrown in! (The Four Faces?). Clara is the Wife, namely a widow, the nurturing type who mourns her late husband still. Curvy Rocio is the Seductress who has seduced Juanito into marriage despite not even liking him that much, so she can have financial security. Luz is the sweet, innocent Child (and her name "Luz", or "light", further underlines her sweetness and purity). Violeta is thrown in as a fourth Face, an assertive, masculine type of woman not featured in the three Faces above. When she isn't dressing up as a soldier, she's chopping wood.
  • Widow's Weeds: Clara dons the traditional black dress and veil to visit her late husband's grave.
  • Youngest Child Wins: As Fernando tells a sobbing Luz, despite the fact that he had sex with all of her sisters, she's the one he really loves. They get married at the end of the movie.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: The two soldiers marching Fernando along are father-in-law and son-in-law. The older one decides to let Fernando go, figuring it isn't worth it and also it might be a good idea to have a Republican friend. His son-in-law angrily refuses to cooperate and raises his rifle. The older one dismisses the younger one, saying "You don't have the balls!" The younger one then shoots his father-in-law through the heart, although he immediately regrets it and kills himself moments later.

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