Torremolinos 73 creates a blend of pornography and dramatic filmmaking, with some humor and a bit of tragedy all crafted together to make a decent film that some will enjoy and others tire of.
Alfredo’s (Javier Camera) life looks to be incredibly miserable. His day consists of going door to door, trying to sell encyclopedias, and constantly failing. When Alfredo returns home, we find out he owes three months’ rent and doesn’t have a penny of it. His wife Carmen (Candela Pena, who’s expression doesn’t change for the entire movie), is an attractive and sweet woman, but she has lost her job as a beautician just when they’re on the verge of being evicted.
Don Carlo (Juan Diego), Alfredo’s boss, tells his salesmen that selling encyclopedias is pointless, and that if they start making super-8 porno films with their wives for the Scandinavian market, the reward is a rather large raise. I’m not really sure how the two connect, but I guess in 1973 Spain, encyclopedia salesmen can easily become pornography artists. Coincidently, Alfredo would have to sell 154 encyclopedia sets to equal the same pay for just one porno film. He and the others take Don Carlo’s offer, and start filming in the rather small apartment.
Alfredo is at first skeptical about making them, but Carmen pushes him because they need the money and subconsciously, she wants a baby. The sex films become a huge underground success, attracting enthusiastic fans and turning their marriage into a sex symbol around Spain.
After they become successful and wealthy, Alfredo believes he can create a feature film, and influenced by Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, writes a script. He gives it to Don Carlo, who agrees to finance it, and having Carmen as the star, they start filming a hilarious and pretentious movie called Torremolinos 73. Problems arise when Alfredo has to deal with Carmen’s sex scene with her costar, and his jealously starts to become an issue with the film and his marriage.
Scenes From a Marriage
Berger has no notable experience in filmmaking besides Mama, a short film made in 1988 about a family forced to live in their basement after a nuclear holocaust. From the references, camera work, and dramatic content in Torremolinos 73, it is clear that Berger has been watching a lot of Bergman since making his short.
In the beginning of the film, a pornographic filmmaker says “Ingmar Bergman said ‘Films are the reflection of reality seen through the eyes of a child.’” This is one of many references Berger makes.
Although his attempts to duplicate the habits of Bergman succeed at times, but Berger is often trying too hard to create a style that he doesn’t have.
A Bipolar Film
The film is often funny, but then changes dramatically to a more serious feel that just doesn’t work with the comedy, creating a constant schizophrenic tone. The specific moods that are set usually work. The comedy is very dry, reminding me of a Wes Anderson sense of humor. The subtle jokes are charming, yet pop up at awkward times. The drama often relies on the actor’s performances, and Javier Camera is fantastic as the troubled husband. Candela Pena looks pretty for the camera, but has a Bob Dole stare for the duration of the film.
Torremolinos 73 is both happy and sad; while the moods often work on their own, hopefully the viewer will be able to handle the two at once.