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Sex and Lucía(2001)
Lucía is a waitress who lives and works in Madrid. After what she believes to be the loss of her boyfriend, tortured writer Lorenzo, she flees to a secluded island that he had often told her about. There she meets Carlos and Elena, who have also run away to the island to escape personal tragedy. Unbeknownst to them, all have connections to Lorenzo. Elena met him many years ago on the island and enjoyed beautiful, anonymous love-making with him in the sea by the light of a full-moon. 9 months later, Elena gave birth to Luna, but never managed to find Lorenzo. Carlos was the step-father of Belén, who disappeared after she unwittingly caused the death of Luna. As she hears more about the past of her two new housemates, Lucía is reminded of the book Lorenzo was writing, a tale about a journey into a dark, deep past that brought on his depression. Soon, the lines between fact and fiction begin to fall apart.
For more about Sex and Lucía and the Sex and Lucía Blu-ray release, see Sex and Lucía Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Julio Medem
Writer: Julio Medem
Starring: Paz Vega, Tristán Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire, Elena Anaya, Javier Cámara
» See full cast & crew
Sex and Lucía Blu-ray Review
What? No drugs or rock 'n' roll?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 26, 2010
Sexual passion and rationality mix like oil and water, so it's little wonder that wild, abandoned, throw caution to the wind sexual activity rarely makes "sense," in the traditional, buttoned-down meaning of the word. That's a very good thing as far as Sex and Lucía goes, a film that combines a largely impenetrable plot with lots of penetrating (so to speak) sex. Spanish writer-director Julio Medem caused a worldwide sensation with this film, which didn't just depict a lot (as in a lot) of sex, it had no problem showing both women and men fully nude, with some of the men in full states of arousal. His refusal to cut (or even trim) some scenes led to the film going out unrated. That of course created a buzz on its own, which some jaded observers may think may have been part of the marketing plan all along. One way or the other, indie house Palm Pictures reaped the rewards, as Sex and Lucía became their biggest grossing foreign film to date. The film also swept away Spanish audiences and it reaped a bevy of Goya nominations (the Spanish version of the Oscar), taking home several, including one for star Paz Vega as Best Newcomer. (No pun intended on the "coming" part). Sex and Lucía is an undeniably lush and luscious fantasy laden film that exults in the same sort of incredibly labyrinthine cross-connections that made television's Lost both so intriguing and occasionally maddening, as a group of supposedly disparate characters discover they're all linked. While the film is easy to watch (especially for those with a more prurient interest in the nudity and sex than the actual often confusing storyline), it defies easy explication or, indeed, analysis, which, like sending it out unrated, may have been part and parcel of Medem's plan all along.
Lucía (Vega) is a waitress who is involved in a long running live-in relationship with a writer named Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa). Lucía is involved in a tense phone conversation with Lorenzo which hints at Lorenzo's distraught, perhaps suicidal, tendencies. She rushes to their apartment, finds him missing, receives a devastating call from the police, and instantly decides to visit the island Lorenzo had often spoken of, setting out on a quest for peace and perhaps a few answers. And then it's flashback time, to six years earlier. In an evocative segment, we see Lorenzo partaking in semi-anonymous sex with a lovely woman in a dappled black ocean underneath an improbably large moon. A few moments later, a cutaway shows us the woman is pregnant by Lorenzo and is out to track him down.
Having seen the anonymous woman in the water and then Lucía in the film's setup, we're therefore momentarily confused (the first of many such instances in this often dreamlike film) when Lucía pops up at a restaurant where Lorenzo is meeting with his agent, Pepe (Javier Cámara), and professes her undying love for Lorenzo. Are we in a film where two women play one character? No, we're actually in a film where one man plays two characters (or something like that), but more about that in a moment. As completely improbable as the scene plays, Lucía has been harboring a secret, near obsessive, crush on Lorenzo since she read his first novel. In an equally improbable turn of events, Lorenzo falls more or less instantly in love with Lucía, and we're off on a whirlwind romance, including (of course) hot, steamy sex with no visual holds barred.
Through a winding series of equally improbable events, it turns out Pepe has discovered that the anonymous woman is named Elena (Najwa Nimri) and he tells Lorenzo how to connect with his previously unknown daughter, now a young girl of around five or six. Lorenzo sets off to discover the girl at a local playground and is almost immediately infatuated with the girl's babysitter, Belén (Elena Anaya). It's at this point that whatever tenuous hold on storytelling logic the viewer has managed to muster slips through the fingers like dappled black ocean water during a midnight sexual tryst. Lorenzo decides his new novel will be about his daughter, the babysitter, and the babysitter's family, which includes a former porn star and a hulking live-in boyfriend. Sex and Lucía wanders, trance-like, between so many time periods and elements which can be seen as either fiction (i.e., what's going on in Lorenzo's novel) or reality that the narrative becomes a rather messy jumble, especially when a life changing tragedy is handled rather strangely and cursorily. By the time we get Daniel Friere playing two parts (or is it simply one character with two names, one an alias?), it's obviously time to paraphrase David Byrne and stop trying to make sense. But that may indeed be Medem's very point. He wants to circumnavigate the rational mind to get to the passionate heart of the matter.
If the story itself is too confusing and coincidental for its own good, the performances, scenery and directorial decorations help to alleviate any discomfort the more logically demanding viewer may feel. Vega and Ulloa make a very believable couple, never overdoing the erotic aspects of the story. Nimri and Anaya are a bit more mannered, but their parts demand a perhaps more tic-filled approach. The gorgeous scenery is extremely evocative, though Medem's decision to shoot this film on digital video leaves the image teetering on the edge of incomprehensibility sometimes. With a plethora of post-processed shots and both overblown and underdeveloped contrast (depending on the scene), the visual confusion aptly mirrors that being experienced in the storyline. There's also a lot of high-falutin' quasi-symbolic imagery of the moon, sun and water, but Medem never really clarifies what he's getting at, other than some lovely footage. But Medem, despite some clichés, is a director who is able to craft meaningful moments, if an overall arching drama has thus far eluded him.
Sex and Lucía no doubt benefited from the media brouhaha caused by its explicit sexual depictions (both Seattle dailies in fact refused to run ads for the film). Whether or not the audiences who flocked to the film in its theatrical release actually got what they bargained for is anyone's guess, but this isn't a purely prurient film by any means. Medem at least makes a passing glance at trying to explore the often hidden connections between people, whether those connections be physical or spiritual. If the film never really makes a great deal of sense, it's a kaleidoscope of ideas and images that provokes and entices in equal measure.
Sex and Lucía Blu-ray, Video Quality
As mentioned above, Medem shot Sex and Lucía on digital video, but the director didn't stop there. This is a film literally filled to the brim with post-processing, including everything from extremely low contrast overly grainy footage, to weirdly filtered shots (especially on the island Lucía visits, where things are blanched, leaving things virtually colorless save for the ghost white sand and vaguely green trees), to extremely high contrast shots that push whites to near blooming levels. So giving a score to this AVC encoded 1080p image (in 2.35:1) becomes a bit of a challenge. I never saw the film theatrically, but I'm fairly sure this Blu-ray perfectly recreates the look and feel of the original theatrical presentation. That said, some of Medem's choices here are at least questionable. When contrast is pushed to the point where the image can't be clearly seen, what's the point? The good news is, large swaths of the film, while having bizarrely filtered color, are extremely sharp with excellent detail. Some of the island scenes are incredibly gorgeous, with amazing depth of field.
Sex and Lucía Blu-ray, Audio Quality
This isn't a film that screams out for a stunning lossless surround mix, but the original Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 does quite nicely for the film. I was surprised by the relative dearth of ambient surround activity in the film, but that really isn't a complaint. The island scenes, especially those next to the ocean, are awash (no pun intended) with water sounds. Directionality, while subtle, comes into play repeatedly throughout the film in such relatively minor things as the sound of a motor which pans nicely as the car moves across the screen. Dialogue is very clean, and the Goya winning score by Alberto Iglesias is very well mixed into the soundfield. There are some interesting, and quite subtle, uses of fairly low amplitude LFE throughout the film that up the tension considerably in a somewhat subliminal manner.
Sex and Lucía Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sex and Lucía's supplements include:
Sex and Lucía Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you're interested in Sex and Lucía only for its sex scenes, you might come away from this film woefully disappointed. There is certainly some steamy sex in the film, but the prurient interest here is negligible. While the film rarely makes much sense, it's buoyed by Vega's luminous star power and an overall dreamlike quality that makes even the illogical seem relatively reasonable. Recommended.
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Sex and Lucía Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sex and Lucia announced on Blu-ray for October - July 23, 2010
Palm Pictures have announced Spanish director Julio Medem's Sex and Lucia for Blu-ray release on October 12. In 2002, the film won Best New Actress (Paz Vega) and Best Original Score (Alberto Iglesias) Goya Awards.
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