INTERVIEW: Circles and Light; Julio Medem Escapes with "Sex and Lucia"
by Anthony Kaufman
(indieWIRE: 07.11.02) — Spanish director Julio Medem was so touched by the tragic fate of Ana, one of the protagonists in his last film “The Lovers of the Arctic Circle,” that he decided to make another movie to give her spirit a second chance. The result, “Sex and Lucia” (opening Friday from Palm Pictures), tells the story of Lucia, a woman so devastated by the apparent death of her lover that she escapes to an island paradise filled with as much passion as enigma. Another Kieslowskian whirl of love, doubles and twisting fates, Medem also has created a unique look on Hi-Def 24p: overexposed beachscapes and bedrooms, drained of color and evoking a dream-like world where his characters live between fiction and reality (one of the protagonists is a writer, creating perhaps half of what we see.)
With his fifth feature since 1992’s “Cows,” the Basque filmmaker took his story through eight drafts, spent five months in rehearsal, and discovered a new Spanish starlet in Paz Vega as the luminescent Lucia (soon appearing in Almodovar‘s upcoming gem “Talk To Her“). On a brief trip to Manhattan, Medem spoke with Anthony Kaufman about light and grain, searches, and circularity.
indieWIRE: One of the things that sticks in my mind most about the film is the light, this overexposed quality. First, how was that accomplished technically and why?
Julio Medem: First, the movie was shot using CineAlta Hi-Definition 24p. It was incredible. This was the third movie in the world using this format. Since Lucia was escaping from a tragedy, she escapes that beautiful island that she steps on. And suddenly those characters have the right to do with that island whatever they want; for example, with the light. Also, when I went to the island with the camera, I forced the light. This overexposed light that almost blinds you, it’s like the characters erasing themselves and starting from zero, so they can start again. That’s the idea I had when I was shooting with my small camera when I first went to the island.
iW: Was the look achieved in post or during shooting?
Medem: Both. During filming, a little bit. We did a very cool white balance, and also overexposed a little bit. We did some testing and we first dealt with the whites and the blacks and the contrasts between the two. The chromatic levels were lowered, so it takes out the colors a little bit. Also, when you increase the light level, you take away the saturation of the color.
iW: Did it come out the way you wanted, visually?
Medem: When it’s projected digitally, that’s when it comes out the way I wanted.
iW: And projected on film?
Medem: It gives it a film texture, with the grain. Sometimes, I like the grain, but I wanted it to be completely transparent with no grain at all. If you see the hi-definition version, it