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Ages of Lulu, The - Tartan Video UK Print E-mail
User Rating: / 49
Written by Ed Fir   
Friday, 11 January 2008

Directed by: Bigas Luna
Written by: Bigas Luna, Almudena Grandes
Produced by: Andrés Vicente Gómez
Cinematography by: Fernando Arribas
Editing by: Pablo González del Amo
Music by: Carlos Segarra
Cast: Francesca Neri, Óscar Ladoire, María Barranco, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Rosana Pastor, Javier Bardem
Year: 1990
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish
Color: Color
Runtime: 96 minutes

Video: PAL R0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Distributor: Tartan Video UK

You know when you sit and watch a great film, and the experience is so damn good that as soon as it ends you’re back at your DVD shelves trying to find something to maintain the momentum?  You know the feeling you get when everything you’re watching is knock-it-out-of-the-park good, and you start to believe that all cinema is just, well, brilliant?  And do you remember the feeling you get when the wheels suddenly lock, your brain starts squealing into a skid, and your mood trips on a rock and falls flat on its face?  Well, watching this film was like that.

The Ages of Lulu” is, at its heart, a coming of age story.  It has all the pre-requisite elements of such a story:  We are introduced to a young virginal girl, she falls in love with a man, has sex with the guy, he leaves for several years, she still loves him, he returns, they marry, something goes wrong, she goes out on her own, something crappy happens, they get back together again.  That’s how it goes, and in fact, that sums up this film entirely.

Nothing wrong with that, although there is something of a struggle to give such a storyline a uniqueness, something to make us remember it.  Bigas Luna, the Director, tries though.  There are a few unconventional moments thrown in, and Lulu’s obsessions aren’t your typical set of neurosis (or are they, maybe I’m out of touch with the modern world).  However, my main problem with this film was that, at the end of the reel, I just didn’t care very much.

There are a few problems, you see.  First off, I want to make an observation about foreign cinema.  I will confess something even though it might make me sound like a jerk.  The thing is, when it comes to say, Asian cinema, I can’t always tell a good performance from a bad one.  First off, the environments and culture is strange to me, and I can’t tell what is “naturalistic”.  Secondly, I don’t understand the language, so inflections and subtle gestures are more difficult to identify.  So most of the time, all the actors seem pretty good to be honest, though they’re probably not.  I confess it, so there!

Alright, so the reason for bringing this up is that even poor old me could detect that some of the performances here are poor.  Even Francesca Neri, who can be quite good, seems to fall asleep at times.  This is a Spanish film, but some of it seemed rather forced.  There were moments when I found that distracting to be honest, and it took me out of the movie, since much of the rest of it is rather earnest.

Secondly, the final third of this film just didn’t work for me.  Having read my plot outline above, you know that at some point in this film Lulu leaves her then husband to go off and find herself, and this is where, according to the box art, “Lulu’s feverish passion finds its outlet through an ever more dangerous exploration of sexual perversion”. 

Having been through some Tartan DVD’s lately, believe me, I was well prepared to see some “dangerous exploration of sexual perversion”.  What did the filmmaker have in mind?  Well, as it turns out, the filmmaker had a few things in mind:  1. To portray every cliché about gay culture; 2. To turn men’s fantasies of women on its head; 3. To blink at the final significant moment and to bail on the shocks.  Hey folks, I was left wondering what all the fuss was about, and that can’t be a good thing.

I’m not gay, and I’m not an expert on gay culture.  Maybe all gay men hang around in bars and then hop off to clients rooms to don leather thongs and do a bit of S&M.  I don’t know for a fact, but I’m going to suggest that there’s a lot more to gay life than that.  So why, when confronted with alternative lifestyles (gay men, transvestites) am I presented, at all times in this film, with clichés and tired caricatures?  I’m heterosexual, and I was offended by what is portrayed here, go figure.

Now, the clever switch on the male psyche and our endlessly perverted thoughts and dreams, damning our expectations, was quite cool, I thought.  Get this, a beautiful (and yes, Neri is quite the looker), young woman in a heterosexual relationship wants to experience something a little different in the sack, maybe with someone else.  So what does she do?  Hmm, ask that of a dozen red-blooded men and I bet eleven of them start mumbling, drooling, and grabbing to stretch the crotch of their pants out – LESBIANS!  Oh, but Luna is a mean bastard, and he ain’t playing.  No, Lulu is into….. HOMOSEXUALS.  And hey, not just homosexuals, but homosexuals getting it on.  So yeah, instead of my purulent mind being fed the food of perversion it craves, I get three dudes feeling each others crotches, dancing together, kissing, and yes, doing the old in-out.  Round of applause to the Director here, I thought it was a neat twist and one of the few moments where the film caught me of guard.

Sadly, however, the payoff here just didn’t arrive.  The final scenes of this film should have been shocking beyond belief, with Lulu going further than she wanted to, and perhaps in danger of losing her life.  So what’s with the sudden off-camera action?  What’s with the oblique angles so you can’t see what’s going on?  I actually don’t know what the heck was happening to Lulu.  She was tied up, hanging from the ceiling with a stocking on her head, screaming….. but why?  Now, I’m not just yearning for gore or shocks here, but keep in mind that in the same scene we see two gay guys anally fisting another young dude who, I have to say, didn’t look like he was enjoying it very much.  I couldn’t figure it out, and really thought Luna had, at the final fence, tripped, backed off, tried again, and impaled the script on a splinted jump.  Dammit, I was cheated feeling the final horror.

I might add, the fact that I’ve gotten toward the end of this review and have not mentioned Cher was not something I originally intended.  In fact, before starting to write this review, I was considering leading with Cher and all her hokey badness.  Cher has played some roles in her life, but none were as interesting as this, well to a point.  You see, they strapped a plastic penis on Cher and had her masturbate on camera.  Now that’s sure something!

Oh, wait.  That’s NOT Cher.  Damn, it sure looks like Cher.  Alright, so it’s someone who maybe worships Cher, wants to be her.  I don’t know though, it gave me some laughs.  If only it were Cher, that would perhaps make this film essential viewing, just for the hilarity.  Oh well.

Alright, so time to wrap up.  “The Ages of Lulu” is a film that isn’t terrible.  In fact, it does have a few moments that are very well done.  The opening third of the film, in fact, present us with a young girl growing up, maturing and coming to terms with her sexuality, and finding the love of her life.  It’s all very good and quite nicely portrayed.  However, it’s not what the film promises, so as good as it is, it can’t carry the film entirely.

The film has some lessons to teach us.  Here are some things I learnt from this film:  If your wife’s brother comes to you and says he’d like to have sex with his sister, say no.  If your idea of fun is to chase transvestites down the middle of the road in your car, don’t leave your window open.  Don’t watch gay porn, you might start wanting some.  If your lover comes to you suggesting you try “something different tonight”, and then proceeds to put rubber gloves on, leave the room.  If you see Cher in a hotel bar on the pick up, it ain’t Cher.  Always cut peepholes in your blindfold.

You know, the main problem with “The Ages of Lulu” is that when it ended, it just ended.  Sure there were the necessary dramatic moments.  Luna did what she had to do, the day was saved, Lulu refound her love, and only the gays suffered – isn’t it all just perfect?  However, I didn’t care, and honestly, I was glad it was over.  The 96 minutes wasn’t adequately shared across the three phases of Lulu’s life (too much emphasis on her as a youth) not enough on her marriage (you can’t go kinky if you ARE kinky), and there’s a pitiful amount of going too far.  I just didn’t care to be honest.  Add to that the inclusion of a child into the marriage which was nothing more than a cipher, yet was carried throughout the run time, and you know, I was even bored at times. 

So I don’t recommend this film.  Which is not the same as saying avoid it at all costs, because it’s not out and out terrible, just not as good as it promised to be.  Get it when you could care less, and you might find parts of it worthy.


1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo – Spanish (English Subtitles)

- Star and director filmographies
- Billy Chainsaw film notes
- Ages of Lulu at the BBFC
- Tartan video trailer reel
- Original trailers

The DVD was region 0 from Tartan in the UK. It’s mostly an uncut print (does that make sense?) Apparently, one cut has been made to the credits sequence to remove a shot of juvenile genitalia. Otherwise, it’s complete (a first for the UK). The print is very nice. There are a couple of text extras including “Billy Chainsaw Film Notes” and “Ages of Lulu at the BBFC”. Interesting enough, but not essential.

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ALbin blom  - cool     | |2012-01-19 11:06:08
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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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