When Lucia (Vega) loses her boyfriend Lorenzo (Ulda)
in an accident, she flees to their favorite island getaway.
Sex And Lucia flashes back six years to recall their
tumultuous relationship. As the film progresses, however,
it becomes increasingly unclear whose story we are watching.
When they first meet, Lorenzo is a blocked novelist. Lucia
is a reader so impassioned by his earlier work that she has
fallen in love with him. At her request, they agree to move
in together on the spot. Gradually, she inspires him to write
again. Is this every writer’s dream? Or is this every reader’s
dream? Or is it someone else’s dream altogether?
As Lorenzo types and Lucia reads the results, the movie illustrates
scenes from what appears to be Lorenzo’s developing manuscript,
but could just as easily be Lucia’s nightmare, as the story
becomes a long, twisted journey into a perilous Oedipal underworld.
Its characters include Lorenzo and Lucia themselves, plus
Lorenzo’s illegitimate daughter, Luna, her beautiful mother,
Luna’s creepy babysitter, with whom Lorenzo starts an affair,
the babysitter’s porn-star mother and horny stepfather, any
or all of whom may spring from real life or be outright fantasies.
How can Lorenzo and Lucia survive the journey and stay together?
Menem (Lovers Of The Arctic Circle) ransacks
the whole Spanish toy box of the fantastic and surreal, the
way Jean-Pierre Jeunet raided the Gallic bon-bon box
to produce the cavity-inducing, super-French Amelie,
to very different effect. As in any erotic practice, some
toys are more enjoyable than others, depending on your taste.
Do you like stories that bend time backward and forward until
it’s stretched to the breaking point? Do you prefer films
that talk about what they’re doing to you, murmuring philosophical
nothings in your ear meant to reveal their hidden themes?
Perhaps you enjoy films that mimic a hall of mirrors, endlessly
multiplying themselves and their viewers by confusing reality
and art? Or do you prefer a chain of happy coincidences that
leads to a satisfying end?
Sex And Lucia tries them all. This is the kind of
movie where tragic events are accompanied by huge close-ups
of clouds swallowing the moon, characters spontaneously fall
through holes in the sand as if they’re in Alice in Wonderland,
and stories are packed within other stories like nesting boxes.
While I found the film’s reliance on such coy cinematic tchotchkes
exasperating, the powerful emotional relationships between
the characters kept me interested. Superb, full-blooded performances
by all of the actresses in the film, especially the tough,
vulnerable Vega, save the movie from becoming a candied confection.
One of only a handful of films shot using high definition
video, Sex And Lucia is drained of color, overexposed,
like a book left on the beach, bleached by sun, sand, and
salt. This suits the film’s sense of sadness, but also gives
it grit and immediacy, so it is never stagnates but exists
energetically in the moment.
Sex And Lucia also enthusiastically mixes melodrama,
sex farce, satire, and metaphysics. There is a vivacious,
lovely looseness about the way it shuffles events and genres
back and forth, as if they were pages in Lorenzo’s novel or
a magical intermingling of all its characters’ memories and
dreams. Watching Sex And Lucia feels like pouring sand
back and forth between your hands or watching waves overlap
and transform each other.
But what about the sex?
Did censors have to be so hard on a hard on? Sex And Lucia,
which features some of the happiest and most purely affectionate
sex scenes in recent film, was threatened with an unpleasant
snip of the censor’s scissors in the U.S., and has been classified
as virtually pornographic in Great Britain. Yes, the problem
is not female nudity, but the number of frank, unfettered
shots of penises in various states, from swinging to standing
to wondering which way to go. One close-up features Lucia’s
loving hand ecstatically gripping Lorenzo’s erect, flushed
member. Oh dear, look away, look away, innocent viewer, or
face certain corruption! Give me a break! God forbid we should
get so fucked up at the sight of fucking—we ought to be glad
for it and question ourselves, not the film, if we can’t handle
it. It says a lot about sex onscreen these days, and our failure
to deal with sex convincingly in American films, that watching
two happy lovers have playful, but not particularly shocking,
sex, is so rare and such a cause for notoriety.
I don’t want to give excited readers the impression that
Sex And Lucia is just an excuse for paying to see some
hot sex scenes, but that’s not the worst reason to see this
film (or any other, for that matter) if that’s what it takes
to get you through the door. However, the sex in these scenes,
which take up only a fraction of the film, is surprisingly
conventional. When Lucia and Lorenzo make love, yes, you get
full frontal nudity (male and female), explicit sex acts,
etc., but there’s nothing out of the ordinary about what they
do. In fact, the scenes are simultaneously relaxed, full of
affection and feeling, and often silly or goofy, just like
the real deal. When was the last time you saw a heterosexual
sex scene that actually happily reminded you of real sex?
Interestingly, the successful realism of these scenes deprives
the carefully applied, poetic “magic” of the rest of the film
of its seductive power. It’s a case of too much mind and not
enough body. The sex scenes are so refreshing and genuine,
the rest of the movie, for all its many strengths, is a bit
What’s really shocking isn’t the nudity or the explicitness
in Sex And Lucia, which is being used to market it,
you can be sure, but the warmth and delight and fun, its erotic
wit—sex as genuine happiness. The only thing overexposed in
this picture is the cinematography.