Poor Alfredo (Javier Cámara). Trudging up and down apartment-house stairways, trying to sell a multi-volume history of the Spanish Civil War (a bust of Generalissimo Franco is included with every order) to indifferent, often hostile, customers. So when Alfredo's boss at Montoya Publishers announces he's getting out of the door-to-door sales business and has decided to enter the wonderful world of "educational" sex materials (it's 1973, and the Swedes are doing big business with sex-ed films), Alfredo figures he has nothing to lose.
Trouble is, Alfredo first has to learn how to properly film sex scenes, then convince his wife, Carmen (Candela Peña), that their marital lovemaking will be the subject of his new trade. Shocked and shy at first, Carmen soon takes to the filming with the eagerness of Jenna Jamison, and the duo turn to experimenting with classic porn scenarios in which Carmen dresses as a schoolgirl, nun, soccer player, etc.
Before you can say "money shot," Alfredo has become the top filmmaker at Montoya, and his work, exported exclusively to Scandinavia, is not only selling like crazy, but has made Carmen a sex star of sorts. Flush with success, and influenced by Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, Alfredo next decides he wants to make a straight dramatic film starring his wife, which Montoya agrees to finance. But when Alfredo's boss decides that the film must include a final sequence in which Carmen makes it with a Danish stud (Mads Mikkelsen), complications ensue.
Although small in scope, Torremolinos 73 is all the more impressive because writer-director Pablo Berger's first feature hits all the right notes. The film ranges from wacky and hilarious to downright romantic, yet Berger manages to shift tone smoothly and expertly. He's aided by top performances from his leads: Cámara, excellent as a befuddled baldie who comes to think he's an auteur of sorts, and Peña, charming to watch as a repressed Spanish woman who blooms, and becomes sexy, in front of the camera.
Never smutty, yet containing its fair share of nudity and simulated sex, Torremolinos 73 is also filled with plenty of subtext about the repressive nature of Franco's Spain. All in all, it's a solid debut for this young Iberian helmer.