Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on February 22nd, 2006
In Spain of the early 70s, Javier Cámara is Alfredo, an unsuccessful door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. His wife, Carmen (Candela Peña), desperately wants a baby, but he refuses because of their dire financial straits. The publishing house he works for decides to move into making sex films, and its remaining door-to-door men must film themselves having sex with their wives or lose their jobs. Carmen sees this as a good opportunity to get pregnant, and convinces Alfredo to give it a try. The…two turn out to be very good at making these films. Bitten by the cinema bug, Alfredo has ambitions of making a feature film in the vein of his idol, Ingmar Bergman. Will his artistic dreams be realized? Will Carmen become a mother? And what to do about Alfredo’s non-existent sperm count?
Its premise notwithstanding, this is actually quite a low key comedy, its wit far more dry than low (though it gets plenty of funny dirty jokes in, too, especially at the expense of Alfredo’s sexually incompetent co-worker). The characters have a real emotional depth to them, too. Where there is a bit of a stumble, I feel, is with the character of Carmen, whose need to have a child reaches rather psychotic levels and robs her of some sympathy. But the movie’s sheer love of life and of cinema wins out.
Did I mention this is a low key film? Nowhere is this more evident than in the very quiet dialogue and spare sound design. The dialogue is distortion free, though since voices are rarely raised, this isn’t too surprising. When there are some sound effects (such as a rain shower), the surround use is solid, but there is also on instance of the rear sound cutting out briefly for no particular reason. The music sounds fine, but it too is very quiet.
The first thing that strikes one about the colours is how washed out and pale they are. I am inclined to see this as an artistic choice rather than a transfer flaw, however. The look that is captured is the look one associates with films from the early 70s, and so the effect is not unlike shooting a 40s period piece in black and white. The image is very sharp, and free of grain and edge enhancement, so while the look might not please all viewers, I thought it worked, and that it is well served by the transfer.
The director’s introduction is a short print essay. There are also cast and crew biographies and a photo gallery. If you want something that has motion and sound, there’s the theatrical trailer (plus trailers for three other new releases), but the real treat is trailers for six Radley Metzger sex films from the 60s and 70s. The print quality is rough, but their presence alone is valuable. The menu has an animated and scored intro, and the main screen plays a song once.
A funny, warm tribute to both high and low filmmaking. Quite the little delight.
Special Features List
- Director’s Introduction
- Cast and Crew Bios
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
- Sexy Trailers from the 60s and 70s
- Other Trailers