Sex and Lucía

Last night we watched “Sex and Lucia,” a Spanish film by Julio Medem, released here in 2002. Lucía, a waitress, has been discreetly stalking a novelist—she adores his first book—and one day confronts him at the cigarette machine, persuading him to let her move into his apartment. Maybe Lorenzo will fall in love, she says, and lies naked on his bed, inviting him to do anything he wants to her; but over their ensuing six years together she finds him increasingly disaffiliated. Lorenzo’s agent and friend, Pepe, wonders why he’s tormented and can’t write and when the next manuscript will be delivered. What Lucía doesn’t know is that, not long before she accosted him, Lorenzo had fathered a daughter in a tryst while on an island vacation on Formentera: the lovers never even knew each other’s names. The mother, Elena, keeps an inn on the island but sends the daughter, Luna (I don’t remember a tilde in the subtitles) off to Madrid where a nanny, Belén, cares for her in the home of her own mother, formerly a porn actress, and her mother’s lover, Carlos, who has gallantly rescued her from the skin-flick racket. (Belén has an endearing penchant for emulating her mother’s every cinematic action.) Coincidentally, the three happen to be near neighbors of Lorenzo. He befriends Luna or Luña at the local playground, surmising that she is indeed his daughter. Meanwhile, Belén seduces him. Just as they are about to do each other and how, the little girl spies them, and at this crucial moment—Ta-da!—she’s attacked and killed by the pet Rottweiler—”Bow, wow!”—which had been specifically tasked with guard duty. Oopsie-daisy! Nothing had foreshadowed that.

At this god-awful impasse, Lorenzo escapes through the window and later tries to do himself in, stepping in front of a car after declaring that he’s stuck in a deep hole. Wormholes in time, the cheeselike foundation of Formentera into which people disappear—what an abundance of symbols, not to mention holes, with even some useful ones in people! Lorenzo is presumed dead. Rather than stick around for his funeral, or at least the composition of an obituary for the local paper, Lucía absconds to the island, where she befriends Elena. As it turns out, Lorenzo’s new novel has been composed at least partly (I’m not entirely clear on this) through online chat sessions with her. She explains to Lucía that even the manuscript has a hole at the end, through which one may escape to the middle. There are many possible outcomes. This profundity awed us.

Carlos, the lover of Belén’s porn-actress mother, had also run away to Formentera, and he likes to scuba dive in the porous rock beneath and around the isle. Elena and he have a casual sexual relationship, although she graciously tells Lucía he’s hers if she wants him. Lucía pursues him on her moped and they have a memorable, well-slathered mudbath, with his advice being to let the earth claim her.

Of course, Lorenzo merely has a hematoma, from which he makes a sudden and complete recovery and is once again his irresolute existential entity. He and Pepe or why not Pépé head for the island. In a scene with a greater number of portentous footsteps on the inn’s upstairs floorboards and down the staircase than in perhaps all Hitchcock films combined, Lucía is stunned to find Lorenzo present in the kitchen and soon, presumably, well accounted for in the bedroom.

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