Saturday, 10 May 2014


Spain, 1905. Julio Olmedo, a young man of modest origin, arrives in Cantaloa to visit his sister, Cristina, a maid at the prestigious Grand Hotel. There, he's told she was fired and disappeared.  To find out what happened, Julio becomes a waiter in the luxury establishment as "Julio Espinosa".

He collects clues amongst the staff and the clients of the palace hotel owned by Doña Teresa, the merciless matriarch of the Alarcón family. In a place full of secrets, his only allies are waiter Andrés Cernuda and Alicia, the youngest daughter of Doña Teresa. Meanwhile, a dead body is found in Cantaloa.

Series one of Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), the acclaimed Spanish mystery drama, is now available in France on DVD from Koba Films. Produced by Bambu Producciones, the company of Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés, for private channel Antena 3, Gran Hotel was sold to more than 60 territories, including the UK (Sky Arts) and France (Téva and M6). Known internationally as "the Spanish Downton Abbey", the creation of Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira has in fact more than meets the eye.

Both Downton and Grand Hotel are period dramas with conflicting characters in a luxurious countryside estate, upstairs and downstairs, but the later is a bona fide detective mystery à la Agatha Christie. The first series is centered around the smart, dashing and tenacious Julio Olmedo (Yon González, excellent), who investigates the suspicious disappearance of his sister Cristina (Paula Prendes). Before she vanished, Cristina confronted Doña Teresa Alarcón, owner of the  Grand Hotel (Adriana Ozores, who reminds of Jane Wyman in Falcon Crest).

Doña Teresa will stop at absolutely nothing to protect her own and the hotel, with a little help of her scheming manager Don Diego Murquia (Pedro Alonso). Her eldest daughter Sofia (Luz Valdenebro) is married with Don Alfredo, the future marquis of Vergara (Fele Martinez), and she's pregnant. Javier (Eloy Azorin), the son of Doña Teresa, is the black sheep of the family. Determined to uncover the truth about his sister, Julio bends the rules and social conventions so dear to Doña Ángela (Concha Velasco), the head housekeeper, and maitre d'hotel Benjamin (Manuel de Blas).

He gets assistance from fellow waiter Andrés Cernuda (Llorenç González, amazing), the son of Angela, who's in love with the manipulative maid Belén Martín (Marta Larralde). He also convinces Alicia Alarcón (Amaia Salamanca), the ravishing youngest daughter of Doña Teresa and Don Diego's fiancée, to join his search. Things get even more complicated for Julio when Inspector Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz, who deserves his own spin-off), a shrewd homicide detective interested in modern policing methods, arrives in Cantaloa on the case of a woman stabbed with a gold knife from the Grand Hotel.

Suspense, intrigue, gorgeous settings, a star-crossed romance and a bit of humour make this fast-paced first series of Grand Hotel compelling. Its riveting twists and turns quickly become addictive. Most of the characters are interesting, the cast is great, and the music of Lucio Godoy is simply magnificent. Gran Hotel was primarily filmed at the Palacio de la Magadalena, an early 20th-century palace on the Magdalena Peninsula of the city of Santander. The 9 X 70-minute episodes of this series one DVD set are on 4 discs in French only. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. (In Spanish)

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