Hawking Up Hairballs

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sex and Lucia

Last night I watched the 2001 Spanish movie Sex and Lucia. I won't try to summarize it myself, but here's the synopsis from the AllMovie web site. I've altered it slightly in the interests of clarity.

Lucia is a young Madrid waitress who is devastated to hear of the death of her old flame, the novelist Lorenzo. Hoping to flee her troubles, she seeks out a beautiful island paradise her dead lover often talked about. There she meets and befriends Carlos and Elena who are also refugees of personal tragedies. Unbeknownst to all of them, the three each have a connection to Lorenzo. Years previously, Elena had a spontaneous fling with Lorenzo on the same island on the beach. Nine months later, she bore his daughter, Luna, but unable to raise a child on her own, she enlisted the help of a nurse, Belen. In attempting to reconnect with the child he never knew, Lorenzo had a passionate affair with Belen, one which caused her to neglect Luna, with tragic results. As Lucia slowly learns these details, she recalls the book Lorenzo was writing just before his death, and soon the lines between fact and fiction begin to slip away.

The film was all right, but I wasn't blown away by it. There was a bit too much of the melodramatic romanticism that the Spanish and Italians seem to be fond of, and I'm too old and jaded to do much more than yawn at movies about sexual relationships between the young. That said, Sex and Lucia is an intelligent and complex film.

Watching this movie really brought home to me just how one-dimensional even the best of American films are. Watch them once and you've got all they have to offer. Not so with Sex and Lucia. There's a lot I didn't understand about the movie, and I'd have to watch it several times before I could confidently state that I had a grasp of it. For example, there's some kind of symbolic contrast between Lucia, who is a creature of the sun, and Elena, with whom Lorenzo had sex with one time on a beach under a full moon, resulting in the birth of his daughter Luna. Some kind of dialectic, perhaps a mythic dialectic, is playing out there throughout the movie, but just what it was escaped me.

I liked the shots in Sex and Lucia that alluded to the techniques used in the films of the early Surrealists, though I'm not sure how much of that was intentional. It could well be that those techniques have become part of the accepted repertoire in the world of the Spanish art film. I don't know. I'm ignorant of the tradition.

Sex and Lucia may also be taken as a meditation upon the nature of the narrative. There's an intermingling of events in the novel that Lorenzo is writing with those that take place in the real world. Sometimes it's hard to figure out which is which, and at the end Elena says that in the novel that Lorenzo wrote, in which she is one of the characters, there's a hole at the end through which she can return to the middle of the story. That seems to be what passes for hope for her.

As my remarks make evident, the movie deserves at least one more viewing, but I wasn't enough taken by the basic story to make the effort.


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