Amantes (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It is the mid-50s, during the repressive Franco era in Spain. Paco, a naive young man from the provinces, finishes up his military service and becomes engaged to his commandant's virginal maid, Trini. Needless to say, the industrious and chaste Trini has no intention of getting involved in any carnality before marriage, so their two year engagement has become frustrating for Paco. In the process of re-entering civilian life, he is seduced by his landlady, the classic sophisticated older woman, a glamorous widow with a substantial libido and underworld connections. The landlady supplies more than just hot-blooded passion, however. She soon involves Paco in her cons. He is initially reluctant to get involved with her, given her illegal profession and her jealous tantrums, but he is eventually seduced into her life as well as her bed.

The idealistic younger woman tries to win Paco back with her own feminine wiles, but she is unequipped to compete in this hard and sleazy world. Paco finds himself torn between Trini's pure love and his passion for the landlady. The solution to the love triangle provokes a shocking and depressing ending.


  • Victoria Abril shows her buns, and one fleeting nipple, in two different sex scenes.
  • Maribel Verdu shows her pubic area in a very clear and beautiful shot, as she reclines on a bed in daylight.
  • There is a close-up of Jorge Sanz's penis.

I liked some elements of this film very much:

  • The locations are impressive.

  • The film conveys a distinct feel of Spain in the mid 1950's. I can't tell you whether that is authentic, but it is consistent, and credible, and established the mood beautifully.

  • A foul and tragic deed occurs in front of a church in a snowstorm, provoking some of the most memorable imagery I have seen on screen.

  • Abril and Sanz have a memorable, ultra-romantic reunion in a train station.

  • Gypsy music plays when Abril and Sanz make love, providing the perfect mood for the sensuous scenes.

  • The photographic images are artistic and consistent, swathing the movie in distinctive browns, earthy dark greens, and golds.

  • The three principal actors seem to disappear into the characters.

not currently available on a Region 1 DVD
On the other hand:
  • The camera work is quite primitive. Almost every conversation is filmed over one character's shoulder into another character's face. The camera doesn't move around much, leaving some scenes with kind of a static, old-fashioned feel to them.  If you didn't know what year this movie was made, you might guess twenty or thirty years earlier than the correct date, 1991.  

  • Some of the music in the non-sex scenes seemed kind of unduly syrupy to me.

  • The project comes off overall as kind of an extra-steamy soap opera, spiced with a bit of criminal intrigue, kind of an Iberian "The Postman Always Rings Dos Veces"

The Critics Vote

  • The film was nominated for seven Goyas. It won only two, but they were the important ones (Best Picture, Best Director)

  • Victoria Abril won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance.

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: Not a major international hit ($1.4 million in the USA), but a domestic success, Amantes was Spain's highest-grossing film in 1991. 


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. I don't expect you will want to see this if you don't speak Spanish and don't enjoy sub-titles. It isn't good enough to overcome those elements, if they are deal-breakers. If you have no objection to foreign language films, you'll find that the sights and sounds are very impressive, even if the plot resolution seems to be out of a bad James M. Cain story. (It is actually "based on a true story", whatever that means.)

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