Lost in Paradise

If ever a film theme has been honored by endless imitation, it is the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir’s idea of stranding a bunch of tortured souls in a bucolic paradise and letting them thrash around in a stew of thwarted love and friendship, runaway sex and great cuisine, not necessarily in that order. The Spanish director Fernando Trueba’s gorgeous, endearingly silly Belle Epoque (Spain’s entry for this year’s Academy Awards) again offers the sincerest form of flattery to Renoir’s A Day in the Country. Jorge Sanz, the Adonis to whom Victoria Abril did such stimulating things in Vicente Aranda’s steamy Lovers, plays Fernando, a young army deserter in 1930s Spain who is befriended by an old painter (Fernando Fernán Gómez) as wise as he is nutty. Fernando’s beauty and gourmet cooking capture the attention of the painter’s four luscious daughters, and their imaginative efforts to ensnare their suggestible guest trigger a sexy farce in which everyone gets a private lesson in liberation and constraint.