On DVD: Score, Sex and Lucia Make the Most of Equal-Opportunity Nudity

When John Cameron Mitchell set out to make his explicit opus Shortbus, he talked about wanting to make a movie where the sex scenes revealed something about the characters and advanced the plot, the way a song-and-dance number does in a smart musical. Given the history of American pornography, Mitchell's goals were both ambitious and almost unprecedented, but European directors have been using explicit sexuality to drive the story (and, admittedly, a boner or two) for decades.

Even American directors like Radley Metzger, whose 1972 soft-core classic Score (Cult Epics) hits DVD this week in an uncensored version, hopped a plane to take advantage of the freedoms that existed across the sea. Score introduces us to a pair of swingers who try to seduce the innocent newlyweds on the block, and while we think we know where this scenario is going, Metzger (and writer Jerry Douglas, adapting his off-Broadway play) defy expectations by having wife seduce wife and husband seduce husband.

This newly-released uncensored version includes some not-so-soft-core footage that hasn't been available since the movie's earliest theatrical run (during that brief window when X-rated movies played "legit" theaters), but the nudity here is very much equal opportunity.

What makes Score a film that has endured in the culture in the way that, say, The Devil in Miss Jones hasn't, is the quartet of game performances (Calvin Culver, as the inexperienced husband, is better known as '70s porn star Casey Donovan) and the fact that the sex scenes really do function in service of plot and character.

sex_lucia_dvd.jpgAnother new DVD that may have you reaching for the smelling salts is Julio Medem's 2001 Sex and Lucía, making its Blu-Ray debut. (All the better for appreciating the sun, sand and sex so exquisitely captured by cinematographer Kiko de la Rica.) The couplings here are strictly hetero, but unlike most American directors, Medem isn't afraid to present male-female couplings without hiding either party behind a conveniently-placed bedsheet.

Paz Vega -- whose stint in Hollywood basically began and ended with James L. Brooks' misguided Spanglish -- stars as Lucía, a waitress who impulsively moves in with Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa), a writer whose novel moved her very deeply. They're soon swinging from the chandelier, but secrets from Lorenzo's past -- involving a vacation fling from years ago that spawned a daughter, and his eventual dalliance with the daughter's nanny -- drive a wedge between them.

Medem uses sex here as a way to eliminate pages and pages of dialogue -- we know how these characters feel about each other, what they want, what they need, and even what they hide, by the way they make love. Sex and Lucía features the former in an interesting way -- mud has never looked so erotic -- but the film's nudity and explicit sexuality is never, ever gratuitous.

Of course, as the current hubbub over Blue Valentine -- the latest indie to be punished by the MPAA for attempting to feature sexuality in a non-timid way -- so potently reminds us, good luck getting either of these movies made in this country these days.



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