Spanish director Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque) juxtaposes the grim and the farcical in this lavishly produced 1998 feature about a troupe of Madrid film people invited by Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels to shoot an Alpine flamenco musical at Germany's fabled UFA studio. The Spanish contingent, headed by the starlet Macarena (eye-catching Penelope Cruz) and her Svengali-like director, are glad to escape their war-torn homeland, but then the repellent Goebbels begins to pursue Macarena romantically, and the visitors witness the persecution of the Jews. Trueba wants to mock the banality of evil as Lubitsch did in To Be or Not to Be, except he trots out too many Nazi cliches and milks the Jews' helplessness to the point of bathos. He's more in his element evoking the film-business milieu in loving detail or noting the camaraderie that spurs apolitical artists to action. 121 min.
By Ted Shen