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Lucía y el sexo (Sex and Lucía)

(2002) *** Unrated
128 min. Palm Pictures. Director: Julio Medem. Cast: Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire, Elena Anaya.

/content/films/302/1.jpgSpanish director Julio Medem's Sex and Lucía is a bizarre, alternately joyful and gloomy take on sexual fantasies and complications. Medem—whose Lovers of the Arctic Circle made such a grand impression—here digs deep into David Lynch territory with uneasy but still impressive results. In self-consciously mixing up an antidote to the perceived downer of his previous film, Medem focuses on sexual liberation and unabashedly embraces eroticism, full frontal-style. He's on to something, of course; truly, this is the way to the heart of art-house audiences! The same can be said of the Goya Awards, which bestowed twelve nominations on the film.

The film follows Lucía (Paz Vega), a sexy Alice who takes off to an exotic island Wonderland when her troubled boyfriend Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa) dies tragically. There, she tries to make sense of his and her obsessions, while being drawn into the erotic lives of strangers. The narrative is purposefully fragmented, and invites questions of what is "real" and what is fantasy. The confusion is aided by Lorenzo's profession as a writer working on a novel (Pedro Almodóvar regular Javier Cámara plays his agent); in flashback sequences, we see Lorenzo develop sexual interests in two other women, played by Najwa Nimri and Elena Anaya. Daniel Freire also turns up in a dual role. Sexually bold and baroque in plot, Sex and Lucía holds audiences on the line well into the final act before reeling in the plotline and exposing what's really going on. When Medem does finally connect some dots, there's real punch in the discovery that the connection is even possible.

It's difficult to dance around the film's Möbius strip plotting (so suggestive of Lynch's Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive), so the less said, the better. But certain high points bear mentioning. The unrated film fearlessly unleashes boundary-kicking sex scenes (confidently and convincingly excusing their pornographic air as part of the thematic exploration of fantasy). The overexposed photography by Kiko de la Rica bottles the beauty of Mediterranean landscapes, lithesome lovers, and the border of madness. Plus, Ulloa skillfully projects wary excitement and torturous rapture, and there's no turning back for Vega, whose ability to hold the screen shows her star is borne. You're not likely to see too many like Sex and Lucía, for better or worse. Those with a low tolerance for pretension should probably take a pass (though even they can coast on the frank sex scenes and Vega's magnetic performance), but I can affirm that this eccentric tour of landscapes physical and insubstantial is well worth taking.

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Spanish; LPCM 2.0

Street date: 10/14/2010

Distributor: Palm Pictures

Palm Pictures gives Sex and Lucía its Blu-ray debut in a special edition that preserves the highly stylized look intended by the director and his director of photography. Hallmarks of the image include muted colors and extreme contrast (swingingly wildly from low to high), part of a scheme of post-production tweaking of the digitally photographed source material. The hi-def disc wisely doesn't attempt any further digital manipulation, letting the image speak for itself in a grainy but not unattractive image that occasionally "pops" to life for one of the many natural-lit landscapes. Medem also lavished attention on his soundscape, recreated here in an attentive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that features sensitive surround channels for some quietly effective ambience; the award-winning music of Alberto Iglesias sounds great, as well.

Palm delivers a strong selection of bonus features to complement the film, starting with the detailed production documentary "Behind the Scenes of Sex and Lucía" (26:30, HD). Along with a generous helping of set footage pulling back the curtain on the film's making, we get interviews with director Julio Medem, Paz Vega, Tristán Ulloa, Javier Cámara, Najwa Nimri, Elena Anaya, Daniel Friere, art director Montsé Sanz, and cinematographer Kiko de la Rica. if you're not sated by this seemingly thorough doc, strap in for another half hour of "Bonus Interviews" (28:18 with "Play All" option, HD) with all of the above.

Rounding out the disc are Original Soundtrack Highlights, a Photo Gallery, Bios, and two Trailers (4:10, HD). Fans of the film will be getting their money's worth here, considering the full battery of extras and a transfer that offers the best possible image and sound.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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