Torremolinos 73
dir. Berger
Opens Fri Aug 19
Hollywood Theatre

I'm a sucker for '70s-era dramas—if you ask me, the only thing that could make Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? any better is if it were filmed in 1974. And while I appreciate some of today's films that are set in the '70s, most are distractingly aware of their setting. Torremolinos 73, on the other hand, is a rare modern film that doesn't draw attention to itself as a period piece. True, its interiors are subtly accurate, but the film's more notable because it's hilarious.

The film revolves around a married couple, Alfredo (Javier Cámara) and Carmen (Candela Peña), who're barely making rent in early-'70s Spain. Just as Carmen gets fired from her assistant beautician job, Alfredo's company is downsizing—and diversifying. For ex-encyclopedia salesman Alfredo, it's either the axe or a leap into the company's new venture—creating educational sex Super 8s for audiences in Scandinavia.

Reluctantly, the timid couple agrees to help with entries for "The World Audiovisual Encyclopedia of Reproduction." They become skilled at movie making (inspiring Alfredo to pen his own screenplay) and love making (Carmen wants to bear a child); as a result, they get pretty rich and pretty famous. Soon, Carmen's wearing furs and being recognized by Danish tourists.

Considering the stars are Pedro Almodóvar alumni (Cámara's in Talk to Her; Peña's in All About My Mother) and that Torremolinos is a racy comedy, comparisons to Almodóvar are inevitable, but the parallels here are positive ones. And despite loads of sex and nudity, Torremolinos is never raunchy; to make a semi-raunchy analogy, the film's like a good 69—it's at first awkward, then giggly, then engrossing, and ultimately satisfying.

Torremolinos isn't perfect (the bumbling Danish crew on Alfredo's movie set aren't as funny as they could be), but its silly-but-novel story makes it easy to recommend. Hilarious as it is, the film's crux is the relationship between Alfredo and Carmen, effectively portrayed as sweet, passionate, and troubled—in other words, genuine. And here I thought it was all about fucking. (But still, I was sort of right... right?)