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Thu August 7, 2003
The men may lose her, but she finds herself.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Writers are driving me crazy: In "Adaptation" Nicolas Cage was barely sane struggling with his inspiration and incendiary companions, true or otherwise; in "Swimming Pool," Charlotte Rampling created a plausible fiction of a dangerous female border and Rampling's desire to make real the murders she wrote.
Antonio Serrano's "Lucia, Lucia" is set in Mexico with a children's writer, Lucia (Cecilia Roth from Almodovar's "All about My Mother"), admitting in voiceover her fictions about her life, establishing herself as an unreliable narrator about the kidnapping of her husband, her attempts to recover him, an affair with a younger man, and a friendship with an older man. Initially I was put off by her lies because a mystery needs a reliable narrator, but as I accepted her creative effort to describe her middle-aged crisis through these fictions, I settled into an aesthetic trance that sees clearly the symbolism of each character relating to her changes of life. Her observation that heaven must be a moment of sex frozen in time is one of the interesting insights these varied experiences brought to her.
Involved in the kidnapping is a rebel gang patterned after the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) prominent about 30 years ago in Mexico. This plot to deliver the ransom money to the gang is so complicated that even the playful plots of "Y Tu mama Tambien" and "Amores Perros" seem simple by contrast. The inclusion of a corrupt government in the kidnapping is confusing and certainly adds no allegorical insight given the historically corrupt governments of Mexico.
The Spanish version of this film, called "The Cannibal's Daughter," is a much more daring and figuratively descriptive title for Lucia's consuming life. Her actor father once played a cannibal, and mother sees marriage as sharing life with the living dead. It's easy to see why Lucia questions her marriage and warily enters into relationships with the passionate young man and politically-romantic older man. She is experiencing what the bard said of middle age:
"Thou hast nor youth, nor age,
But as it were an after-dinner's sleep
Dreaming on both."
In the end, the story turns nicely on the evolution of a soul who accepts life and her place in it as a writer whose imagination helps her find peace. The men may lose her, but she finds herself.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.