[box cover]

Sex and Lucía

The title of Julio Medem's deliriously erotic reverie Sex and Lucía serves as a rather blunt proclamation of the film's true focus, for there's little doubt that sex in all its many incarnations is the unquestionable star of this show. Furthermore, it could very well be argued that sex is also the film's protagonist, since Medem's scrambled, opaque narrative seems more concerned with confounding the viewer than inviting one to sympathize with the many screwed-up characters that populate the picture's tragic landscape. This is not to say that poor Lucía fades into the background. On the contrary, as imbued with a voracious sensuality by the delectable Paz Vega, Lucía — once freed of the weighty prologue in which she flees Madrid to an island resort after being informed of the apparent death of her author boyfriend, Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa) — proves a delightfully impulsive creature. The bulk of the film unfolds in an extended flashback which, after a portentous, moonlit beach téte-a-téte, begins with Lucía's initial café encounter with Lorenzo, whose novel captivated her so much that she feels helplessly compelled to plunge herself headlong into his life. It's a brilliantly played sequence, shot expertly by the emotionally intuitive Medem. Lucía's intense attraction to the stunned yet flattered Lorenzo bursts white-hot off the screen, leading to a frenzied courtship of all-consuming desire. It's in these early, playful moments that Medem is at his most seductive, choreographing a mutual strip-tease between Lucía and Lorenzo that perfectly captures the passionate early stages of a relationship where newfound lovers just can't keep their hands off of each other. But happiness in his sex life does not necessarily translate into a fertile artistic period for Lorenzo, who plateaus until finding a story in which he has a personal involvement — namely, an illegitimate child he never knew he fathered. At this point, reality and fiction within the world created by Medem start to blur, as Lorenzo slyly inserts himself into the story he is telling, while Lucía reads it with great interest. To spend time with his daughter, Lorenzo must also deal with an intermediary: her sexually ravenous babysitter, Belen (Elena Anaya), who has a dark and sordid story of her own involving her ex-porn star mother and her boyfriend. Slowly, Lorenzo is drawn away from his healthy, loving relationship with Lucía into the emotional decay of Belen's lustful existence, which threatens to corrupt his soul and endanger the lives of those for whom he cares most. As in his previous feature, The Lovers of the Arctic Circle, Medem favors an elliptical, heavily symbolic style of storytelling that, while meticulously constructed, often feels forced. (He is also particularly fond of sun and moon imagery that grates with its repetition.) Eventually, this heady high-wire act backfires on Medem, most painfully in the last 15 minutes, wherein he badly botches the final act of his tale. Having gathered all of the principals on the enchanted isle to which Lucía has retreated, Medem sets in motion a series of revelations that, while surprising to the characters, were made known to the viewer an hour prior, thus robbing the film of its intended poignancy. That said, Sex and Lucía, when it's hitting on all cylinders, is an exceptionally arousing date film that, if used for purposes other than cinematic edification, should work its magic before coming undone by Medem's errant plotting. Lions Gate presents the movie in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), and though the transfer is fine, the image, particularly in the island segments, is often bleached out due to Medem's decision to shoot the film on a Sony High-Def camera. Medem makes a compelling argument that going digital is less cumbersome, allowing him greater intimacy with his actors (certainly the film's greatest strength), but he also sacrifices the requisite visual splendor so crucial to films of this lush, sensual nature; ergo, his images are often ungainly when they need to be breathtaking. The disc does offer both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 stereo audio tracks, while a decent array of extras includes a behind-the-scenes featurette (25 min.), cast interviews, a photo gallery, selections from the soundtrack, cast and crew bios, theatrical trailers for this film and other coming attractions, and Web links. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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