×

In Praise of Older Women

Helmer Manuel Lombardero's "In Praise of Older Women" is a rites-of-passager that fails to provide any new angles on an overworked genre and Stephen Vizinczey's bestseller. Though pic is lovely to look at and has a healthy lack of political correctness, these are not sufficient to compensate for a surprisingly slapdash script from vet Rafael Azcona. A physically gorgeous cast, largely composed of emerging Spanish talent, should make it a modest hit at home, but pic's failure to ignite the emotions is unlikely to win it the praise of offshore auds. Andres (Miguel A. Garcia as a teen, growing into an androgynous young man played by Juan Diego Botto) is sent home to his mother at the start of the Spanish Civil War. He sets off on his bicycle but is intercepted by a group of Republican soldiers and taken to live with them in their camp. Having become an anarchist without knowing what the word means, he discovers the erotic in the flirtatious form of a British countess (Faye Dunaway), a tourist who has been stranded by the war and who sleeps with both cruel anarchist Davalos (Imanol Arias) and Andres during her stay.

With:
Andres ..... Juan Diego Botto Andres, at age 15 ..... Miguel A. Garcia Countess ..... Faye Dunaway Irene ..... Carmen Elias Marta ..... Joanna Pacula Pilar ..... Rosana Pastor Davalos ..... Imanol Arias Bobi ..... Florence Perniel Julia ..... Ingrid Rubio Victor ..... Angel de Andres Lopez

The countess is the first older woman whom Andres will encounter in his sub-Freudian search across Spain for his mother. When the countess and her husband leave, Andres is taken to live with Julia (wide-eyed Ingrid Rubio), with whom he makes awkward adolescent love in one of pic’s more successful scenes. Later imprisoned by the fascists, Andres is picked up by his mother, Irene (Carmen Elias), at the end of the war, and taken to live with her and Falangist boyfriend Victor (Angel de Andres Lopez), leading Andres to reflect that he was freer during war than he is during peacetime.

He still has three more women to meet before his sentimental education is complete: earth mother Pilar (Rosana Pastor), from the Republican camp, with whom he literally rolls in the hay; architect’s wife and anti-Fascist intellectual Marta (a non-lip-synched Joanna Pacula), and lively Italian violinist Bobi (Florence Perniel), who is more or less his own age and with whom he falls in love.

Quite why these women are so willing to jump into bed with Andres is never established — unless it is because of Botto’s fabulous eyelashes — and it becomes hard to see pic as anything more than unreconstructed male fantasy. The actresses look like a catalog of different versions of feminine beauty, and Dunaway, though effective, is shot by Jose Luis Alcaine as though she is in a face cream ad.

Pic’s episodic structure means that the script picks up women and drops them as quickly as Andres does. Dramatically, this might have worked if we were allowed to trace the complexities of his spiritual development. But, apart from a few voiceovers from him as narrative links, we are never allowed into his mind.

Botto struggles bravely with a role that is too insubstantial to allow pic to cohere into anything more than the sum of its parts. Despite intermittently witty dialogue, scripter Azcona uncharacteristically fails to turn ideas into action. The political theme is treated similarly sketchily: What is the point of running away from Franco’s Spain to Mussolini’s Italy?

The selection of accompanying songs is entertaining and appropriate, and production values are good, with some memorably lensed landscapes.

Popular on Variety

In Praise of Older Women

Spanish

Production: A Sogepaq release (in Spain) of a Sogetel/LolaFilms production, with collaboration of Canal Plus (Spain) and Sogepaq. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Produced by Andres Vicente Gomez. Directed by Manuel Lombardero. Screenplay, Rafael Azcona, based on the novel by Stephen Vizinczey.

Crew: Camera (color), Jose Luis Alcaine; editor, Ernest Blasi; art direction, Josep Rosell; costume design, Lala Huete; sound (Dolby), Licio Marcos de Oliveira; associate producers, Fernando de Garcillan, Antonio Saura. Reviewed at Cine Lope de Vega, Madrid, April 11, 1997. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Andres ..... Juan Diego Botto Andres, at age 15 ..... Miguel A. Garcia Countess ..... Faye Dunaway Irene ..... Carmen Elias Marta ..... Joanna Pacula Pilar ..... Rosana Pastor Davalos ..... Imanol Arias Bobi ..... Florence Perniel Julia ..... Ingrid Rubio Victor ..... Angel de Andres Lopez

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content