The Ages of Lulú
Aptly described on its box cover as a tale
of ‘scorching Spanish sexual awakening’, Bignas Luna’s 1990 outing
The Ages of Lulú is notable for two primary reasons. Firstly it
marks the feature debut of Javier Bartem, who would later win
innumerable plaudits for his roles in films such as No Country For
Old Men, Before Night Falls and The Sea Inside.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it’s one of the provocative and
uncompromising raunch-fests ever committed to celluloid.
Based on the novel by Almudena Grandes, the
film revolves around the sexual awakening of its eponymous protagonist,
portrayed to great effect by Francesca Neri (who despite playing a 16
year old was actually in her mid-twenties at the time of shooting). She
falls in love with one of her brother’s friends, and the older fellow
wastes no time in introducing her to the pleasures of oral sex, the
kinkier side of Madrid’s sexual subculture and, during one noteworthy
sequence, to the joys of having your pubic hair shaved during a
discussion on musical instruments.
The end result was a frank and highly
controversial depiction of teenage sexual exploration. In the UK
several scenes were pruned or excised entirely before the film was
allowed a theatrical release; one of these, the title sequence no less,
was found to be in contravention of the Child Protection Act. The
Umbrella DVD edition has all these cuts restored, and features the film
in its scandalous, ribald entirety. There aren’t any bonus features,
picture quality on the 1.78:1 transfer is somewhat soft in places, and
the stereo sound won’t exactly set your home theatre system alight with
a blistering display of auditory pyrotechnics. Nevertheless The Ages
of Lulú is a brazen and important work from one of Spanish cinemas
most overlooked auteurs, and one of the most stark, startling depictions
of burgeoning female sexuality ever to grace the screen.