The winner of the alternative Golden Warrior prize at Cannes’ renegade (and virtually unnoticed) Cannes You Dig It sidebar, “Lucinda’s Spell” is a lively U.S. indie cross-genre piece that will leave marketing mavens scratching their heads. A ribald saga with supernatural underpinnings, the film is equal parts comedy and social drama that add up to a puzzling, if entertaining, whole. Offbeat pic could develop cult status based on sheer energy alone, but it will require careful handling to maximize its specialized potential from all revenue streams.
The mumbo-jumbo plot has something to do with a Druid celebration called Beltane. Jason (Jon Jacobs, who also wrote and directed), a descendant of a great wizard, returns to Earth to find a mate. He lands in New Orleans, where the local witches are preparing their best and most alluring spells to win his favor.
Lucinda (Christina Fulton), an outcast from the coven, has become a prostitute to make ends meet. Eight years earlier she had a close encounter with Jason that resulted in an heir. But that’s her little secret. The boy is the ward of the state, and Lucinda thinks there may be a way to use Jason’s arrival for something she really wants — legal custody.
The plot is little more than a thread on which to hang an assorted variety of issues. Primarily, pic examines power dynamics and how women use it and are used to attain all manner of material and psychological advantage. The piece is grounded by Fulton’s full-blown performance, which has a jagged edginess that’s frightening and riveting. Director Jacobs draws effective work from a cast of amateur and largely inexperienced performers, and gives himself some solid screen time as the malleable visitor.
Sharp production values also help “Lucinda” cast its spell. Filmed in widescreen, it has a smooth professional polish that’s rare for an otherwise modest indie. Jacobs has an acute sense of how to capitalize on location for ambience and, with cinematographer Jaime Reynoso, how to create a sense of claustrophobia on a broad canvas.