Cousin Franz: Sex is the exploratory adventure of our lifetimes, one that involves walking through necessarily expanding doorways. This is a concept that is swept aside or altogether ignored in our repressed, puritanical American fictions. Holly-weird is frustratingly Holly-wholesome. In 1990, Spanish film-maker Bigas Luna adapted “The Ages of Lulu,” the erotic best-seller by Almuneda Grandes. Lulu (Francesca Neri) is an average teenager aching to experience sex with Pablo (Oscar Ladoire), her older brother’s friend. He begins by suggesting fellatio in a parked car, rain against the panes, as many a teenager’s initiation goes. Later, Pablo commands Lulu to shave her pubic mound, which she hesitatingly does. Once that’s accomplished, they’re married. Then they introduce a whole lot of kink into their marital status by hunting down transgender prostitutes. This is how Lulu and Pablo develop an odd but genuinely warm friendship with Ely (Maria Barranco), who becomes an addition to the couple’s love-making. Lulu becomes voyeuristically interested in gay men. Pablo introduces her to bondage- and he allows Lulu’s brother to have sex with her, while she’s blindfolded. This unsolicited incestuous rape makes Lulu run away from Pablo, who is boring and benign (on a very kinky curve)- into the hellishly-lit red corners of the S&M sex dungeons of Madrid, (Luna-regular Angel Jove, from “Bilbao,” is there as well, as a trench-coated masturbator.) In the seedy underground, Lulu meets a young and very physically imposing Javier Bardem, who is very good at playing this sort of bi-sexual dominator. Trade gets rough soon, and the conclusion to this unlikely set of escalating erotic adventures is as abruptly moralistic as if it had been written by a Church elder. Bigas Luna seems to suggest that, while a little transgression is healthy, it’s probably best if a wife avoids the pornographic cauldrons of Hell and returns home to her husband before her sex life becomes a matter for the police. Who would disagree?
Hank: Of course when it was Cousin Franz’s turn he would pick this low-budget, Euro-trash, “provocative,” badly-lit relic from behind-the-beaded-curtain of a 1990s VHS rental store. It’s provocation for provocation’s sake. The supposed time jumps in Lulu’s life are so jarring as to become unimportant. Completely plot-less. It’s not even filmed well enough to get a pass as erotic art. Tracey, kiddo, S&M stands for Sin and Maleficence!
Trent: Hey, Cousin Franz! I totally get “auteur theory” now! That’s when the pervy director does the same thing again and again. For instance, this Big Ass Moon guy did the same thing he did in “Bilbao”: GRAPHIC CLOSE-UP PUBE-SHAVING. This makes “50 Shades Darker” look like an Amish romantic comedy.
Tracey: I am all for exploring sexuality in body positive, consensual environments, and I do like the sympathy this movie extends to the trans character of Ely. But Ely is the only recognizable human to emerge from this badly-edited mess, (well, and Javier Bardem, who takes over the movie with a big minor role toward the end.) As for Lulu: the Italian actress Francesca Neri is frankly uncompelling. She was dubbed into Spanish for the film and it shows. Maybe that creates the disconnect for me, but I couldn’t care for her in the least. The way she was just pushed around by her sleazy predator of a husband! But then it’s easy to push someone around when their only personality trait seems to be “Available For the Next Sex Scene.” If she’s supposed to be empowered, why couldn’t she be empowered into, I don’t know, going to community college?
Beatricia: Oh, darling, I agree. I think that director Bigas Luna at some point meant for this Lulu to be an iconic Emmanuelle. The ending song describes a wacky, lovable, multi-faceted, ever-evolving character. We never meet anyone like THAT in the actual movie! Francesca Neri goes through a variety of terrible hairstyles that are supposed to signify her “Ages,” and that’s all. My tragic life experience tells me most male viewers won’t even notice when she changes hair-dos! Watchable only for Luna completists, and for Javier Bardem’s scenes. What impressive musculature, that Javier! The soft Hollywood life ruined him, like it ruined Antonio Banderas. Spain is a country for young men, I tell you.
Grandpa Felicius: Lurid dreck like “The Ages of Lulu” is what happens when some parvenu attempts to replicate Luis Bunuel’s “Belle De Jour.” (Ah, Catherine Deneuve could destroy a man with barely a glimpse of a shoulder blade!) When taking on the classics, one should first consider whether there’s funds in the coffer. This glorified stag film has the budget of a mid-70s daytime TV show!
Blurbarella: “Sex– Kink– Erotic– Bondage.
Low-budget– Badly-Lit– Unimportant.
Community– Wacky–Lovable–Impressive– TV Show.”
2 out of 6 Cherries