Mar 10, 2011
Appointing myself with the task of seeking out select films from the library of Bigas Luna, I stumbled upon The Ages of Lulu, my third acquaintance with the Spanish auteur, the first being Caniche with Jamon Jamon following. Based off of a best-selling erotic novel of the same name, the film chronicles the sexual provocation within our anchor, Lulu. The film starts off rather innocent enough when Lulu eyes her brother's best friend, Pablo, and proceeds to initiate an erotic congregation that turns into blissful marriage but eventually boils into, hands down, one of the strangest and most terrifying finales to be found in the genre of romance. What turns Bigas Luna on to me further is this strange connection I feel with each film of his I view. It resembles a vivid union of his traditional aesthetic - food and sex. Call it soothing familiarity if you will. Tying together his films beyond passion and pain are similarities that outstretch through the many alleys of his oeuvre. In the similarly tragic pieces of love, Jamon Jamon and The Ages of Lulu, pigs (as well as other forms of cattle) are featured exclusively as important pieces toward development. For Penelope Cruz in Jamon Jamon, a double entendre is played with the title, Jamon translating to ham and the scene in which Javiar Bardem refers to Cruz's breasts tasting that of ham and in The Ages of Lulu, a plush pig is squeezed and adored unconditionally. Consider it the last breath of chastity the girl will have.
The Ages of Lulu is a marvel in regards that, being adapted from written form, becomes a film as well as a reference guide on what no to do in a sense, specifically in the case of unleashing your wildest desires and lusts. That is really the horror of it all, the whirlpool from which to escape requires an unbelievable amount of self-control. If the sequential downward spiral in film is where your heart lies than prepare to meet your muse. The Ages of Lulu is a very temperamental film, much akin to the mood swings that accompany menstruation. Upon viewing the film, my voyage through the ripples of transgressive sexuality was smooth-sailing to say the least. I figured that this film wouldn't deserve a word on it, not for being of substandard quality but for the absence of subversive material to cover. Once The Ages of Lulu hit the hour mark though, I spotted a terrifying trend to become introduced and I had no choice but to hold tight and witness some of the more depraved happenings to a sweet girl since visualized in Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. The only difference is that in this case, consent was flagged more often than not, unless of course we count the fact that the very soul of Lulu was being raped throughout the motion picture. A fact of making love to a committed partner involves something known as "body mapping" in which you trace over your lovers body with the utmost importance of sensuality as to connect the dots of what makes their body tick. Bigas Luna's exceptional storytelling has a similar effect on our sweet Lulu, oh so susceptible to fleshy desires and by films end, we're both outraged, enraged, yet, secure in the comfort of experiencing and knowing her own pleasures. This is gratifying filmmaking at its finest. No doubt magnified by Luna's specialty in design.
The playfulness of The Ages of Lulu is part of what makes the conclusion so jarring, a smack to the face, really. The films opens on a note of such maternal beauty that women everywhere would coo and claw softly at the television screen with idle static tickling their fingertips. This shot in particular being an infant placed on a white table. This shot ranges from the sterility of the blinding whites of the room to the almost-obscene nature of the close-up to the infants genitalia, this child being Lulu, ergo, Vagina. I really only call obscene for my sake cause as I was sitting there the very presence of this made me somewhat uncomfortable, not to mention the fact that the camera looms there for a good portion of time before a figure powders the fertile crescent. This vaporizes pretty quickly once it becomes apparent that moreover The Ages of Lulu is the tale of Lulu's cunt, rather than her person. Featured alongside the fantastic and lovely Francesca Neri is Javier Bardem in one of his first feature film performances as a twisted gay hustler. The inclusion of his character is rather nice considering I backtracked from Jamon Jamon (in which he is a starring character) to The Ages of Lulu (only given a sliver of screen-time but blessed with a weighty character). Another reiteration of Bigas Luna's style is his dwelling on the fault of man and his open-endedness with blame. By near every films end I'm left attempting to trace back a fault of some kind because I desperately want to blame a given character but again, I'm stumped.
It seems that every film I view on the female sexuality turns heads into a tale of becoming a whore, whether it be blamed on accident or on account of a thirst for bodily fluids that is never quenched. The Ages of Lulu is no stranger to this notion as the build up of Lulu's fetishes become ridiculously overbearing on the once sweet girl. From mingling with a transvestite to forcing gay men to consummate with her, there is no end to the depravity that Lulu indulges herself with. It starts off nice as always but once the idea of love becomes expendable Bigas Luna grabs you by the neck and shakes you. No amount of preparation could prepare you for the final twenty minutes. It is such a departure in tone that it borders on a horror film and will leave you scowling at the selfishness of the libido. I will even admit to muttering "what about Ely?" I haven't even mentioned a previous "shocker" in the film when Pablo decides to help a friend out and subjects Lulu's body to one of the more kinky and socially unacceptable taboos out there. The Ages of Lulu is prone to dissenters, this I've noticed. While it's easy to sprinkle salt in wounds I figure that The Ages of Lulu is exempt from such incessant banter as perfect cinema is as rare as it gets. Here, Bigas Luna captures what makes women tick while keeping the mystery enshrouded. An exemplary work of erotic fiction that doesn't seem too far from reality.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 6:39 PM
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