Paz Vega is this year’s Audrey Tautou

Paul Wong

Tautou, the star of last year’s French hit “Amelie,” invaded movie screens all across the country last year and, for those who saw the film, thusly invaded the fantasies of men and women everywhere. Not only was she a great actress (who was robbed of an Academy Award nomination) but she also radiated cute and sexy better than almost any actress before her.

Now Vega, starring in a film about as unlike “Amelie” as you can get, arrives in “Sex and Lucia,” a film from Spanish director Julio Medem which earned 11 Goya Awards last year (the equivalent of the Oscar to Spain). Vega, as Lucia, does not exude the kind of cuteness Tautou did in her performance; instead, Vega makes you think sex and nothing else. The relatively new actress has a fantastic body and isn’t afraid to show it, all of it. Also, possessing no inhibitions is her male counterpart Lorenzo (Tristan Ulloa) and almost everyone else in the cast.

“Sex and Lucia” plays out mostly in the flashbacks of Lucia’s distraught mind. Early on, she receives a phone call informing her that her longtime lover Lorenzo has been killed in an accident. For comfort and escape, Lucia heads to a remote island in the Mediterranean that Lorenzo had visited years before.

Lucia finds a place to stay at a guest house run by Elena (Najwa Nimri), a woman the audience knows once met Lorenzo in the waters off the island and later had his child. The only other guest at the house is Carlos (Daniel Freire), a mysterious scuba diver with a special endowment that makes him more than proficient in the bedroom (or the sands, whatever your pleasure).

The film’s first half plays out rather simply, deceptively simple as it may be because the second half becomes intricately complex as the line between fiction and reality becomes just as thin as that line between night and day. Said rather bluntly, the relationship between Lucia, a Madridian waitress, and Lorenzo, an author, plays out in porn-like ways, They fulfill each other’s fantasies, utilizing blindfolds, stripteases and all your favorite “sex can be fun” amusements. Shot without a blink of the eye, the viewer becomes an intimate member of the best sex of these characters’ lives.

But “Sex and Lucia,” for all its pornographic material, never feels amateurish or insincere; Lorenzo and Lucia really do love each other and we see the passion real love can exude. Their relationship takes a turn for the worse when Lorenzo starts encountering difficulties with his second novel. Not getting the reassurances from Lucia (his biggest fan) he desires, Lorenzo turns to fantasies with another woman and another story revolving his trying to take responsibility for his daughter with Elena…or does he?

Many events unfold involving fantastical chances of fate and circumstance making the viewer wonder if the events are simply part of Lorenzo’s book or if they’re actually happening.

If you’re dreaming of a trip to Europe right now, “Sex and Lucia” might just be the film that makes you buy that ticket. The island getaway is beautifully shot with all its dark waters and skies full of symbolic suns and moons. And the setting is not the only beauty, Vega never gets lost in her surroundings. The young actress, who stands Adam and Eve naked throughout the beginning of the film, stands emotionally naked for the remainder. With all its pretension and sometimes predictability Vega, combined with the heart aching performances of Ulloa and Nimri, keep the film centered in a reality we want to believe in for two hours if only because we want all of their romantic fantasies to work out just as we would our own.

With all its partiallyincomprehensible story arcs, “Sex and Lucia” is definitely a film that might deserve a second viewing so all the pieces come together. Temporary confusion is a definite possibility for any viewer but don’t worry, just keep your eyes on Lucia, she is the light by which all the other character’s dreams and melancholy will be illuminated.

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