One consequence of the death of Spain's General Franco in 1975 was an avalanche of soft-porn movies, and "The Naked Years -- Classified 'S'" is an affectionate, if clumsy, X-ray of the period.

One consequence of the death of Spain’s General Franco in 1975 was an avalanche of soft-porn movies, and “The Naked Years — Classified ‘S'” is an affectionate, if clumsy, X-ray of the period. Witty and well-observed for its first hour, pic declines in its final stretch into more standard soap opera. But a trio of strong central perfs and the sheer fascination of watching a decent portrayal of a society in transition just about compensate. Best film to date from helming duo Felix Sabroso and Dunia Ayaso should see action at Hispanophile fests, with an outside chance of arthouse play.

First scene is the strongest, as wannabe actress Sandra (Candela Pena, in a typically feisty role) strips for an audition and a fixed camera pitilessly records her confusion as she recites a Lorca speech. Meanwhile, traditional-minded Eva (model and sometime actress Mar Flores) leaves her pueblo for the bright lights of Madrid, and tough, streetwise Lina (Goya Toledo) looks for extra cash.

The three come together to make a softcore item about nuns that’s directed by Marcos (Antonio de la Torre). He patiently explains to a skeptical journo that removing their clothes is a sign of the women’s desire for liberty. On-set scenes are some of the pic’s best; at the premiere, the girls have tomatoes thrown at them.

The times may be changing, but machismo is still alive and well in the shape of slimeball producer Angel (Luis Zahera), who finances the girls’ next project, a hilariously tacky women’s prison drama. Angel ends up sleeping with and humiliating all three, eventually marrying Eva.

The abundant party scenes are faithful to the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll spirit of the time. However, pic becomes heavily cliched in its final half-hour, when it loses its social focus and homes in on the women’s fates.

Script is ultimately cynical about the sexual revolution portrayed: As one character says, the films are for the same dirty old men they always were. Performances are fine, but Flores, though she acquits herself well, cannot match Pena or Toledo for nuance.

Lensing is basically energetic, in keeping with pic’s generally on-edge air, and cheesy ’70s Europop provides an apt background. Period detail is aces, especially costume design. Title refers to the now-defunct Spanish classification system.

The Naked Years – Classified 'S'

Spain

Production

A Universal Pictures Intl. Spain release of a the Little Giraffe, Antena 3 Films production, with participation of Antena 3. (International sales: Antena 3, Madrid.) Executive producers, Juan Romero, Koldo Zuazua. Directed, written by Felix Sabroso, Dunia Ayaso.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), David Azcano; editor, Ascen Marchena; music, Lucio Godoy; art director, Javier Fernandez; sound (Dolby Digital), Jorge Ruiz. Reviewed at Cines Acteon, Madrid, Oct. 30, 2008. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Candela Pena, Goya Toledo, Mar Flores, Antonio de la Torre, Luis Zahera.
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