BELLE EPOQUE, an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film, is set in Spain during the 1930's and tells about the escapades of an army deserter, Fernando, who seduces all four daughters of an elderly gentleman with whom he is staying. With a romantic air, the film could have been successful without the excessive sexual content, foul language, sexual innuendo, and promiscuous plot.
BELLE EPOQUE, an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film, could have been a pleasant and sunny diversion reminiscent of ENCHANTED APRIL. But this Spanish period piece, set during a brief calm between two political storms in the early 1930’s, tarnishes what should have been a cheerful romantic comedy with unnecessary excesses of language and sex. Fernando, a handsome army deserter, stays with an elderly gentleman and soon seduces all four of his daughters. One of the daughters, an uncloseted lesbian, becomes excited at a costume dance when she dresses in Fernando’s uniform and leads him in a tango after he has been unceremoniously togged in a maid’s outfit. Two other daughters, a recent widow and a beautiful but flighty would-be fiance trying to escape a nerdy suitor, catch Fernando on the rebound from this unnerving experience. At the end, Fernando declares his love for the youngest daughter, and they plan to marry.
Much of the film has the flavor of an old-fashioned romance and would have been successful on this level if it had limited its sexual references to innuendo rather than explicit demonstrations. However, the moral anarchy of contemporary culture seeps through so frequently that the light touches are tarnished, spoiling what could have been an unexpected hit from a culture we see so rarely on film.