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With: Paz Vega, Tristán Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire, Elena Anaya, Silvia Llanos, Diana Suárez, Javier Cámara, Juan Fernández, Charo Zapardiel, María Alvarez, Javier Coromina
Written by: Julio Medem
Directed by: Julio Medem
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 128
Date: 08/24/2001

Sex and Lucia (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Idyll Shower

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Back in the late '60s when movies began to loosen up when it came to sex and violence, the term "European movie" meant different things to different people. While a few artists and academics went to "European movies" to immerse themselves in high art, I'm convinced that more filmgoers went to them just to see naked people.

Sex and Lucia plays as a kind of throwback to those days. It offers a complicated serpentine plot that circles back upon itself and explores destiny, death and rebirth. But it also has two outrageously gorgeous women who take their clothes off a lot and lavish their attentions on one lucky, lucky guy.

It begins with Lucia (Paz Vega), who, while working at a busy restaurant, receives a distressing call from her live-in boyfriend, a writer named Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa). She arrives home to find a note, gets a call from the police, and assumes he's dead. She flies off to a remote Mediterranean island, a place that apparently meant a lot to Lorenzo even though he never took her there.

Meanwhile, we flash back and learn that Lorenzo spent a single romantic night on that island with a mysterious woman named Elena (Najwa Nimri), and has fathered a child he didn't know about until years later.

Another flashback shows the beginning of Lucia and Lorenzo's relationship: Lorenzo furiously writes and the two make love whenever possible.

When Lorenzo discovers his daughter's identity, he goes to visit her every afternoon in the park where she plays. He becomes interested in the child's sexy nanny, Belén (Elena Anaya), and she gives him erotic ideas for his novel -- including a shower fantasy people will be talking about for years to come.

It gets even more weird and complicated with story arcs spiraling inward and outward at the same time like a snail shell. Unfortunately, Sex and Lucia moves like a snail, as well; by the time it gets to its last half-hour, we pretty much have everything figured out. Yet it keeps going.

I didn't see writer/director Julio Medem's previous film, Lovers of the Arctic Circle, but I'm told it has similar elliptical plot threads. Some viewers will get a bang out of mentally tying up all the ends in Sex and Lucia (I recommend bringing a notepad).

With nice photography, Medem manages to keep the plot strands separate: While there's sunny, bleached-out digital video cinematography on the island scenes, the flashbacks feature warm interiors in apartments, and the sexy flashbacks within flashbacks are dreamy and bleary.

Still, this film is mostly about sex and sexy people taking their clothes off. And it accomplishes its goal. It's warm and open to the idea of sex, unlike other recent films -- such as Romance, Lies, Fat Girl and Intimacy -- that purported to explore sex, but in the end were just as repressed as any Hollywood movie.

But don't expect Sex and Lucia to be another Y Tu Mamá También. That film was a simple, joyous, coming-of-age story -- like a mature Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- while Sex and Lucia is a more clandestine movie, a sex film disguised as an art film. I suppose people might enjoy it on that level; they'll have to pretend to follow one aspect while secretly enjoying the other.

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