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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Torremolinos 73
Torremolinos 73
First Run Features // Unrated // February 21, 2006
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted February 28, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Films made in Spain tend to have a certain quirky quality and a willingness to push at the edges of the conventional. This approach can balance at the perfect edge of bizarre humor like Álex de la Iglesia's Crimen ferpecto (released in the US with the bland title The Perfect Crime), or it can tip over into simple weirdness. Pablo Berger's Torremolinos 73 has a generous helping of effective quirkiness, but it doesn't quite maintain the balance.

Alfredo (Javier Cámara) is a struggling door-to-door encyclopedia salesman; his wife Carmen (Candela Peña) is a conventional housewife. They're not exactly the typical people you'd expect to get into the porn industry, but when Alfredo's company signs a contract to make "educational sex films" with a Scandinavian company, it's porn or a pink slip. Well, with the rent overdue...

The first half of the film is quite well done, as we see the characters embark on a journey into uncharted waters, with a mix of hesitance and enthusiasm. There's a cheerful send-up of typical porn scenarios, as Alfredo makes essentially the same movie over and over again with different outfits involved. There's also a nice touch of absurdity in the business end of things, with the publishing house and the Scandinavian "filmmakers" both trying to puff themselves up to be more significant than they are.

As we pass the midpoint of the film, though, Torremolinos 73 starts to have problems staying coherent. The initial setup - nice, conservative couple ends up making soft-core porn films - isn't enough to sustain the whole movie, so we start seeing more of an emphasis on character development, largely in the form of Carmen's obsession with motherhood and Alfredo's obsession with film directing. Here, the film starts to feel that it's taking itself more seriously, and it loses some of the tongue-in-cheek edge that the first scenes had. The entire final section of the film, involving Alfredo's ambitious attempt to make a Bergman-inspired serious film, just doesn't feel that it works very well at all. The film's final scene gets back a little bit of the spark of the beginning of the film, but it doesn't quite make up for a rather awkward denouement of what ends up being the main storyline. The saving grace of Torremolinos 73 really is that it's only 81 minutes long; just about when you start really wondering where all this is leading, you'll realize that there's only about ten or fifteen minutes left to go, so you might as well finish it up.

Torremolinos 73 is set in Spain in 1973; one of the things it does well is to capture the feel of that era. It's only a notch over thirty years ago, but a great many things have changed... including the pornography industry. Neither Alfredo's job as a door-to-door salesman nor the need for the "educational sex films" pretense would be applicable today, for instance. I think that Torremolinos 73 also captures a particular social mood about sexual freedom and conventional values - or perhaps it would be better to call it a social ambivalence. What do we make of the fact that Carmen seems to deal perfectly well with being a porn actress, and sees it - over the initial objections of her husband - as a way to afford her dream of having a baby?

Viewers who are extremely prudish, or who have dogmatic views about pornography being evil, would do best to avoid Torremolinos 73, which addresses the business of making sex films frankly and openly, with a sense of humor but without condemnation. There's a lot of nudity, including full-frontal nudity (mostly female, but some male nudity too) and several almost-explicit sex scenes. The interesting thing is that none of these scenes are sexy or particularly provocative (at least for this female viewer): Torremolinos 73 is not by any means pornography, but rather very much a comedy about characters making pornography.

The DVD

Video

Torremolinos 73 appears in its original theatrical presentation, widescreen 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. The overall image looks very much like a film from the 1970s; at first, I thought this was a problem with the transfer, but a little research seems to suggest that the faded look and slight brownish tint are purposefully put there to evoke the 1970s setting. The print is clean and overall the detail is good. However, the big flaw is that the English subtitles are burned-in, which is an annoying problem in an otherwise decent transfer.

Audio

The Spanish Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is clean and presentable. There's nothing particularly exceptionable about it, one way or another; it sounds fine and doesn't have any problems. The English subtitles are, unfortunately, burned-in.

Extras

A few special features are included, though nothing of note. There's a short text introduction to the film (in English) from the director, cast and crew biographies, a photo gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. A set of "sexy trailers of the 60s and 70s" is the next feature, with some truly odd films represented. A few trailers for First Run Features DVDs also appear in the special features section.

Final thoughts

Torremolinos 73 is an odd film that has some good material for a quirky comedy/drama, but it doesn't really come together. Though it's only 81 minutes long, it feels like its material is stretched thin, and the final section of the film is oddly constructed. The burned-in subtitles won't endear this transfer to Spanish-speaking viewers, either. It's probably worth a rental if you've enjoyed similar films, but it's probably not worth a purchase. Rent it.

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