Sex and Lucia (Lucía y el sexo)

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It all starts at the beginning of the end. Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa) is in agony, but he won’t tell Lucía (Paz Vega) what the matter is. Over the phone she asks, “Why are you so messed up? Is it something about the island?” He won’t say. When she gets home, Lorenzo’s not there. She reads a note as she listens to a police officer over the phone tell her there’s been an accident. Lucía escapes to the island. The sun is so strong, it washes everything out like a brilliant dream as she motorbikes along the ragged, rocky edge. Yet she’s still able to see the full moon — until she steps off the bike, walks toward the water and falls into a stone hole.

Written and directed by Julio Medem (Los Amantes del Círculo Polar and Tierra), Sex and Lucía is both a nightmare and a fairy tale at the same time, swimming within an ocean of vital, breathing metaphor.

Under a low and large full moon, a naked man and woman embrace and immerse in the sea without knowing each other’s names. The encounter is so seductive and profound, it’s as if we’re witnessing a Greek myth coil and flower, the scene transitioning with the full moon evolving into a circular disk with a plus sign forming inside. The pregnancy test is positive. Elena (Najwa Nimri) doesn’t even know the father’s name, but she’s sure she’ll find him.

Sex and Lucía’s camera lens flows like a violin sonata, cool and natural, until the whole film unfolds like a classical score in movements manifested by sex, the moon, the sun, birth, porn and death, all ending up on an island with no name and myriad holes. The film sequencing has little to do with linear time. Scenes unwind, tied together by the much stronger forces of emotion, desire and significance.

Medem’s film relies on symbolism as much as action and reaction, interwoven with the imagination of a writer who’s pushed and pulled into a dark, unsettling carnal corner. Lorenzo’s name means the sun, but it’s the moon that rules both his fate and the stories he pens. He’s enmeshed in a tale of lust and betrayal which began on a park bench, talking of porn to a young girl, Belén (Elena Anaya), literally behind his daughter’s back. Now the girl desires her ex-porn-star-mother’s lover — or is it Lorenzo she wants?

On the island, Carlos asks Lucía if she wants to scuba dive with him. She declines. Carlos answers Lucía, “Right. The girl waits on the pretty side, and the crab explores the ugly, rocky, horrible side.” Lucía craves the sun. She continually sings to it. But she also needs to visit the ugly side of life, even if it’s as a literary voyeur. Lucía loves Lorenzo’s tragic novel so much, she loves him, and her attraction merges with a complexity of attractions. They all propel Lorenzo’s stories (and the film) as if the character of Lorenzo knows he’s co-creating with the director. Both perspectives merge into the reality of the film.

In a chat room, Lorenzo sends Elena a story full of advantages. He explains, “The first advantage is at the end of the story. It doesn’t finish. It falls in a hole, and the story starts again halfway. The other advantage, and the biggest, is that you can change course along the way ... if you let me, if you give me time.”

As the words are typed, violins play and you see Elena’s reflection on the screen with Lorenzo’s reflection kissing the back of her neck, all reflecting the emotional exchange taking place. Lorenzo’s message not only helps to relieve Elena’s intense suffering, it permeates and shapes the film as the process of rebirth, manifesting itself through the lives and thoughts surrounding him.

Sex and Lucía presents a miraculous and disturbing allegory, beautifully and intricately constructed by Medem, with the ability to transcend time, place and language by giving itself the ability to begin again at any moment.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.

Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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