Belle Epoque (1994): Spain’s Oscar Winner, Directed by Trueba, Starring Penelope Cruz

Set in the 1930s, just before the Cicil War, Belle Epoque, Spaniard Fernando Trueba’s fable-comedy, won the 1994 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The tale centers on a deserter from the army who stumbles upon the household of an old anarchist.  Complications ensue when each of the owner’s four daughters shows romantic interest in him and proceeds to seduce him.

In 1931 Spain is politically divided between Republicans and Traditionalists. Fernando, a young soldier deserts, befriends Manolo (Fernando Fernán Gómez), a wealthy man with large estate in the country.

Fernando meets and is enchanted by Manolo’s four daughters, each one beautiful, representing a different facet of female sexuality.

He falls in love and has sex with each of them, determining to marry. But there’s a problem with each girl. Clara (Miriam Díaz-Aroca) is a widow who recently lost her husband seeks solace with Fernando. Violeta (Ariadna Gil) is a lesbian who is attracted to Fernando only when he is dressed as a woman for a costume ball. Rocío (Maribel Verdú) is a social climber about to marry into royalist family who only momentarily succumbs to Fernando’s charms.

Heartbroken each time, the father of the girls encourages Fernando to have patience. In the end, he bonds with the youngest sister, Luz (Penélope Cruz), who represents naïveté, but gets easily angry and jealous.

Released in the US by Sony Classics, the film was a major hit, grossing $5.4 million at the box office.

Oscar Nominations: 1 (Spain)

Best Foreign-Language Film (directed by Fernando Trueba)

Oscar Awards: 1

The win surprised many industry members, who expected “Farewell, My Concubine,” the entry from Hong Kong, to get the Oscar after earning the Palme d’Or at Cannes Fest.