Spain's answer to Elizabeth is a 16th-century political conspiracy drama inspired by the true story of the "mad" Queen Joan and transformed by septuagenarian Vicente Aranda (Lovers, Jealousy) into an earthy bodice ripper. Age certainly hasn't dulled his taste for hot-blooded cinema. Spanish beauty Pilar López de Ayala, with her doe eyes and milky complexion, is the royal innocent sacrificed in a political marriage to the swarthy Prince Philip (Daniele Liotti with a Fabio mane of hair), a womanizing cad whose wandering eye transforms the naive virgin into a tempestuously jealous wife. Aranda matches Pedro Almodóvar in the arena of self-destructive love, obsessive passion, sweaty cinematic sex, and deliriously melodramatic spectacle. If this portrait of Joan as a volatile package of emotional nitroglycerin borders on melodramatic cliché, López de Ayala gives her a fiery, full-blooded passion and Aranda mounts her romantic obsession in an unhinged, undeniably lusty costume drama. --Sean Axmaker
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