in Films: 1960s-1990s

“Lovers”: The Tumult of Passion

Image courtesy of

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Mother’s drill this dictum into their daughter’s, and women’s journals dispense it as advice to snagging a husband. The flab that forms on the well fed’s waist is proof of a victory. It’s called a love handle, and on it a wife has a firm grip. The victory applies to matings of other variations, as well, be it two men, two men and one woman, or otherwise. My relationship with Jason vouches for this. (

Jason and I met at Cornell University, where I was on a writing fellowship and he was in the hotel school. His home for the two years that we grew close was a brick walk up directly across Ithaca Commons from my place, a postmodern structure on which treetops at high noon would cast their reflections in black. Over takeout dinners of beef broccoli and pot stickers, we’d watch TV, down a bottle of wine, and talk about anything from Monica Lewinsky to a newfangled invention called google. The one occasion we veered from our routine was a late night when the Chinese restaurant where we would place our orders was closed. Jason improvised a meal with tuna, seaweed flakes, mayonnaise, and crushed red chili. Then “The Howard Stern Show” came on. We were back to our nightly pattern. Each moment we shared was comforting in its predictability. This would never have been if not for a pad thai dinner he had prepared for me shortly after we had met at Ithaca’s sole gay bar.

Image courtesy of

However, nourishment that fortifies the body and pampers the heart doesn’t satiate the hunger of the flesh. Herein enters passion.

Passion heightens our senses. Whether in our presence or in our minds, those adored so devour us that all we see is their beauty as we quiver to their scent. Their flesh is electricity against our bodies. Nectar coats their lips. And in silence, we hear their voices. Should they on any occasion reject our emotional or sexual overtures, we behave in a manner deserted of dignity. We grovel and fawn. We are taken for a fool. Woe to us who are so besotted that we become stupid to what is right and what is wrong. No, this never happened between Jason and me, this losing of oneself into the other, and gratefully so, or else neither of us would have made it through graduate school in a sound state of mind. I kid you not. To know to what depths of depravity passion can drag a person, watch “Lovers” (1991). Beware: the film is based on a true story.

Paco (Jorge Sanz) is a soldier who comes home to Madrid upon the completion of his military service. He plans to marry his girlfriend, Trini (Maribel Verdú), who with her docile disposition and frugality makes for the ideal wife. She is pretty, too, with hair the black of a black panther and eyes that dote. They seem bound for a future preordained to all the betrothed during the 1950s – parent, grandparenthood, an apron for her, a tool box for him – until Trini requires that until the wedding, Paco lives elsewhere for the sake of propriety. Bad move. The room to the flat Paco rents belongs to no traditional woman. Luisa (Veronica Abril) is one sexy, sex-crazed lady who also happens to be a wheeler-dealer in a variety of money-making scams. Because Trini refuses to put out until their wedding night, Paco gets caught up in Luisa’s web of kink that entails (among other things) golden showers and a silk kerchief up a section of his anatomy where nobody had before dared to venture.

Image courtesy of

The guy is a slave to Luisa. He never says no to her, whether in the bedroom or out, no matter that a demand could land him in the slammer. Who can blame him? We are all sexual animals, and when a smoldering fox ensnares us as prey upon whom to unleash the secrets of the oldest profession on earth, we cannot resist.

Passion can ignite anywhere, at any moment, and with anyone – a bolt that strikes us as lightning does a tree. We fall. Hard. Try to get up, and we are dizzy from the stars that swirl in our heads. This is what happened to another real life couple whose liaison caused tongues to wag in the 1990s: Mary Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. Letourneau was a teacher who unwittingly became a media festival when news of her dalliance with her student – Fualaau, 22 years her junior – made the circuit. She was 34 years old at the time, which would make her lover the age of… you do the math.

“Don’t look into his eyes,” Letourneau confessed in a recent Barbara Walters interview of her thoughts on the instant she surrendered to Fualaau’s advances. They were at a playground when he asked her, a married woman, if she would consider having an affair. The bond between the two had started way before then, however; for Fualaau, as far back as the second grade. She was substituting for his class when first he beheld her. “I thought she was a movie star,” he said to Walters. For the dusky boy, the slim lady with the giving smile and blonde bangs was a vision that would gnaw at him for the years that ensued, until that fateful day in the playground, when she was his sixth grade instructor, mentoring him on her spare time to develop his talent as an artist. They rendezvoused in the evening. A kiss led to a pregnancy, a six-month jail term, a parole violation, a second pregnancy, and another jail term, this time for seven years. “Why can’t it ever just be a kiss?” sighed Letourneau. (

But a kiss is never enough. For all the forces that conspired to keep them apart and the misery that resulted, Mary Letourneau and Vili Fualaau are today happily married with teenage children, living a quiet life in Seattle, where they operate a family restaurant. Their story would be ripe material for a movie. That Letourneau and Fualaau are at the polar end of the spectrum from the triangle of a train wreck that is Trini, Paco, and Luisa would be sure to pack in an audience. We need endings that spur tears of joy. Plus, the two are apparently a pair of foodies.

Image courtesy of

What do you know? The tumult of passion can translate into marital harmony after all.

Write a Comment