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Sex and Lucia

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Sex and Lucia

Starring: Elena Anaya, Javier Camara
Director: Julio Medem
Rated: NR
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: July 2002
Genres: Romance, Erotica

*Also starring: Daniel Freire, Silvia Llanos, Paz Vega

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Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

On the internet's principal movie site,, I noted this comment: "'Sex and Lucia' is not about sex." Hmmm. I wonder what version he saw, because "Lucia y el sexo" competes with "Y tu mama tambien" for the most erotic art-pic of recent months right up there in the tradition of Catherine Breillat's ironically named "Romance," which is about a woman rejected by her lover who goes on a sexual odyssey. But while "Romance" is not really erotic and at times dull, "Sex and Lucia" glows with Basque director Julio Medem's ambience: his images are as important as the story, many quite beautiful.

"Sex and Lucia" is not about sex as mere recreation but as the consummation of a frightfully alive passion that burns with such intensity that we can believe its central character, Lucia, who in the midst of orgasm says "I'm dying, I'm dying." (That doesn't come off the way it sounds on the printed page, which is all the more reason that this is a must-see film.) The San Sebastian- born Medem's new film is in turn with well received "Lovers of the Arctic Circle" deals with people who meet at the age of eight and know that they are destined to be together. Since the lovers in that 1998 work are palindromically named Anna and Otto, we understand that Medem means to tell us that love is circular. "Sex and Lucia" pretty much tosses out any intent at straight narrative, shifting not only by way of flashbacks but with a circle of temporal-eschewing scenes, some of which are part of the imagination of Lorenzo (Tristan Ulloa), who is a writer who convey his own memories of events of the his recent past some fictional, others absolutely true. As he writes he varies the tone and events in order to bring us in the audience to a happier ending than he had originally planned.

The film centers on Lucia (Paz Vega), a waitress in Madrid, who suddenly dashes out of her caf‚ stating that Lorenzo, her long-term, live-in boyfriend, needs her. Receiving a phone call from the police that Lorenzo has been in a tragic car accident, she decides to wipe out her past life and start anew in the tiny, little-known Balearic island of Formentera off the Eastern coast of Spain. There she is taken in by a guest-house owner and cook, Elena (Naja Nimbi), who has a relationship with a diver named Carlos (Daniel Freire). In her mind Lucia relives her passionate affair with Lorenzo, gradually learning the writer's dark side, particularly of his one-night stand with Elena which resulted in the birth of Luna (Silvia Lllanos), a daughter he had not known he had. As Medem's photographer, Koko de la Rica, trains a CineAlta HDCAM 24P camera on the characters in the blinding sunlight of the island and on the urban landscape of Madrid, we are introduced to the circle of love that finds Lorenzo in yet another sizzling relationship with Belen, the daughter of an ex porno actress.

There's plenty of sex and lots of Lucia in this metaphysical drama, featuring both male and female frontal nudity and conveying the impression that the best thing that happened in Spain during the 20th century was the death of Franco. While the film requires close attention, the symbols are simplistic enough, particularly the image of the sun and moon and sea all joining together in a never-ending orgy of bonding. While we try to figure out which scenes really occurred and which are the product of the writer's feverish imagination, we think of the process of writing itself the way that the scripter, by pushing the delete button and clicking away at the keyboard, can shape characters' lives any way he or she chooses. We also find out why Europeans like telephone showerheads. "Sex and Lucia" is an experience.

Copyright © 2002 Harvey Karten

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