Porns and Halos: A Tame Look at Spanish Sex Films

Its Saul Bass-y credits suggest an Almodóvarian flamboyance, but this impotent '70s-set comedy mostly skimps on discoteca stylishness. Off his game as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, Alfredo (Talk to Her rapist Javier Cámara) is drafted for an exceedingly odd bit of internal hiring: His boss, in league with a Scandinavian publishing company, needs employees to direct and star in educational movies for a "Danish World Encyclopedia of Reproduction." (These are actually plain-old pornos, but no one quite concedes that point.) Enthused that one of the backers also worked for Bergman, Alfredo happily agrees to film scenes from his own marriage.

Can making money be that easy? For a movie set toward the end of Franco's rule, when Spanish laws were steeped in strict Catholic doctrine, Torremolinos 73 seems strangely nonchalant in its attitude toward porn. Kissing her cross before her first nude scene, Alfredo's wife, Carmen (Candela Peña), otherwise has no trouble getting down to the nitty-gritty. She wants a baby, and this is the perfect way to get her husband to knock her up. As in Boogie Nights, the characters are deluded but innocent—Alfredo, who fancies himself a budding auteur, is genuinely surprised to learn that his wife has become a sex symbol up north. There's even a convenient rationalization when a producer requests (mild spoiler alert) that Carmen try on a less schlubby partner. Sexual jealousy has long served as grist for comedy, but director Pablo Berger is too nice to delay anyone's gratification for very long.

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