Saura's work has so often made tacit reference to the Spanish Civil War that one might reasonably expect this, his most direct look at the conflict to date, to be one of his more heartfelt efforts. It concerns a raggedy but enthusiastic cabaret trio - lusty Carmela (Maura), husband Paulino (Pajares), and their hapless, mute dogsbody (Diego) - who, in 1938, decide to take a break from entertaining Republicans on the Aragon front and retreat to a less beleaguered Valencia. But (surprise, surprise), lost after a foggy overnight drive, they find themselves behind enemy lines, where their only hope of escaping imprisonment or execution is to fake fidelity to Franco, and stage a show for his troops with lyrics and gags doctored accordingly. As political cinema, this exceedingly broad 'tragi-comedy' falls flat on its face, never moving beyond simplistic polarities and a concept of history as sentimental as it is falsely heroic. As drama, too, it fails to transcend maudlin stereotypes (both national and sexual), while its origins as a stage play are all too obvious, and the performances given to grotesque overstatement.