Judge Clark Douglas wants to cover you in mud. Wait, come back!
An erotically-charged fugue.
"The first advantage is at the end of the story. It doesn't finish, it falls in a hole."
Facts of the Case
Our story begins with a telephone conversation between a woman named Lucia (Paz Vega, Spanglish) and a man named Lorenzo (Tristan Ulloa, A Good Man). They have been in a relationship for quite some time, but things don't appear to be going well. Lorenzo decides to break it off. When Lucia returns home, her lover has vanished.
Now let's jump back six years into the past. Lorenzo is making love to a woman named Elena (Najwa Nimri, Secret Agents), though neither he nor she knows the other's name. They decide to keep it that way, only giving each other vague clues of their respective identities. Both regard it as the best night of lovemaking they have ever experienced. They go their separate ways. Lorenzo is a writer, and is inspired to write a novel based on the experience.
Lucia finds herself obsessed with the novel, and is equally obsessed with its author. She proceeds to stalk him for a lengthy period, following him to restaurants, to shops and even to his home. Finally, Lucia works up the nerve to actually talk to Lorenzo. She confesses that she loves him intensely and wants to live with him. Surprisingly, Lorenzo is delighted by her confession and agrees to her proposal without much hesitation. So begins a passionate affair that will slowly but surely lead them back to the point where our story began.
If regarded in a purely logical manner and taken at face value, Julio Medem's Sex and Lucia is an absurd and rather unconvincing film. Characters behave in extremely peculiar ways at times, there are plot developments that make little sense and there are moments of contrived melodrama that are nothing short of shameless. However, it's important to note that Sex and Lucia is not a film that is meant to be considered or studied. It is a film to be experienced; a mood piece driven to wild places by emotions. Things do not happen because they would really happen that way, but because the mood is right for them to happen.
The title is a bit more straightforward than you might imagine. Lucia is the central character and she's thrown into quite a few sexual situations over the course of the film. It's a bold, lurid title for a bold, lurid movie, but the film is not a piece of cheap titillation. It's a piece of intensely artful titillation; an astonishingly well-shot and seductive film that embraces the sexuality at its core without reservation. The majority of American films in recent years have demonstrated a nervous attitude towards sex; when it appears we try to deflate it with giggles or artifice. Sex and Lucia is intensely European in this regard, offering few cutesy jokes to deflate the inevitable tension such deeply intimate situations will inspire in viewers.
This isn't to say that the film isn't a bit gratuitous at times. While there are sex scenes which are absolutely essential to the film's effectiveness, there are others which play like little more than an obvious attempt to maintain audience interest (the movie's tendency to have one of its principle actors get naked every few minutes or so feels a tad cheap). It's also worth noting that the sexuality depicted in the film is a bit more brazen than usual; sometimes veering into territory that's at the hard end of softcore. The film is not rated, but it's definitely in NC-17 territory. Obviously this is going to be more than many viewers are comfortable with, and the frankness of the sexuality may prevent some moviegoers from wanting to explore the film.
That's certainly understandable, but mature viewers with a tolerance of/appreciation for this sort of thing are in for a hypnotic and beautifully-crafted experience. The film casts a spell on you within its opening minutes, as Medem seduces the viewer not with naked flesh but with breathtakingly gorgeous images of nature…a windswept beach, a moon over a serene sea, tall grass bending in the breeze. The seductive score by the underrated Alberto Iglesias sets a mood of suspense and romance, oh-so-persuasively inviting the viewer to immerse themselves in the world of these characters. It is absolutely essential to surrender to the film's spell; if it fails to seduce you then it probably fails to work at all.
The faults of the plotting keep the film from being great or even very good on an objective level, but there are nonetheless moments that just about made my heart stop. Consider one of the last scenes of the film, when one characters sees another and has a deeply emotional reaction. The manner in which this scene is presented, from the suspenseful build-up to the woozy camera angles to the clever shots of nature carefully edited into the mix, is nothing short of brilliant. It's the sort of moment that temporarily convinces you that you're experience a masterpiece—only in the cold light of the contemplation that inevitably follows do the flaws start to surface.
The hi-def transfer is solid, though it's important to consider that the film was shot on digital video and then subjected to loads of post-production tinkering. Some scenes are lathered in excessive grain, others are bleached to the point of being almost blindingly white, others are bursting with vibrant color and are crystal-clear. Whether one has quibbles with the artistic decisions is beside the point; the film looks like it's supposed to and it looks great when Medem wants it to. The audio is excellent, which is fortunate given the soundtrack's importance to the film's success. The subtle bits of sound design and the Iglesias score go a long way towards setting the tone, and these elements are given an immersive mix. A couple of moments are so loud you may need to adjust the volume, but otherwise I have no complaints. Supplements include a 26-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette, 28 minutes of assorted interviews with the cast and crew, some text-based soundtrack info, some text-based bios, a photo gallery and the theatrical trailers.
Adventurous viewers with an appreciation for bold filmmaking should give Sex and Lucia a look. The Blu-ray gets the job done nicely.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Palm Pictures
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