Two decades after its first wan movie adaptation (starring Tom Berenger
), Stephen Vizinczey
's novel "In Praise of Older Women" has been transformed into another movie that doesn't quite work. Although the setting has been changed from World War II-era Hungary to the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, this version is equally unsuccessful in its depiction of a teenager's erotic coming of age.
The Spanish feature, which received its U.S. premiere at the 15th Miami Film Festival, has some names in its cast (Faye Dunaway
, Joanna Pacula
) and can certainly exploit its sexual content, but theatrical prospects are limited.
"Women" chronicles the amorous adventures of 15-year-old Andres, who is abandoned by his mother. He falls in with a group of anti-fascist rebels near the front, where he has his first romantic experience with a beautiful but slightly seedy countess (Dunaway) who is not above providing sexual favors to assure safe passage for her and her husband.
Andres is then sent to stay at his sergeant's house in Barcelona, where he quickly falls under the spell of the sergeant's beautiful daughter Julia (Ingrid Rubio
). Unfortunately, Julia's not-so-understanding mother catches the two in the act and kicks Andres out. Making his living as a black marketeer, Andres enjoys a dissolute but dissatisfying lifestyle until the war ends, when he reunites with his mother, now married to a prominent fascist. His next experience comes with a married neighbor, Marta (Pacula), who starts out educating Andres about books but continues with lessons of a far different kind.
The political aspects of the film are interesting but far from compelling, and screenwriter Rafael Azcona
and director Manuel Lombardero
fail to render Andres' romantic adventures with sufficient poignance or depth. Even worse, most of the story is not particularly erotic.
The film drifts from one listless episode to another, and many of the characterizations are too broadly drawn to be credible, but not broad enough to be truly entertaining. It does have an evocative re-creation of the period and gorgeous cinematography that makes ordinary objects glimmer with passion. But as with the story and characterizations, all the pleasure lies on the surface.
IN PRAISE OF OLDER WOMEN
A Sogotel, S.A. Lolafilms presentation
with the participation of Canal Plus
and the collaboration of Sogepaq
Credits: Director: Manuel Lombardero; Screenplay: Rafael Azcona; Executive producer: Andres Vicente Gomez; Cinematographer: Jose Luis Alcaine; Editor: Ernest Blasi; Music: Jose Manuel Pagan. Cast: Andres: Juan Diego Botto; Andres (age 15): Miguel A. Garcia; Countess: Faye Dunaway; Irene: Carmen Elias; Marta: Joanna Pacula; Julia: Ingrid Rubio
. No MPAA rating. Running time -- 101 minutes. Color/stereo.