Lucrecia Martel – La mujer sin cabeza AKA The Headless Woman (2008)

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“I feel a little … I don’t feel good.” So says Veronica, the middle-aged upper-middle-class Argentinean woman who suffers a nasty bump on the noggin early on in Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (La Mujer Sin Cabeza) and spends the rest of the movie in a semiconscious stupor, a stranger in her own body. Watching Martel’s film, which premiered midway through the 61st Cannes Film Festival, it occurred to me that Veronica’s woozy disorientation was a pretty apt metaphor for Cannes itself, where one can reliably emerge from seeing a near masterpiece only to discover that everyone — or at least the influential industry trade newspapers — has declared the very same movie une catastrophe! That was certainly the case with The Headless Woman, which was the first (though hardly the last) of this year’s competition entries to be greeted with lusty boos at the end of its press screening, putting it in such esteemed past Cannes company as Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura and David Cronenberg’s Crash. (In one of those rare alliances of Franco and Anglo sentiments, Martel’s film spent most of Cannes scraping bottom in the daily critics’ polls conducted by the British trade paper Screen International and its Gallic counterpart, Le Film Français.) Continue reading

Lucrecia Martel – La niña santa AKA The Holy Girl (2004)

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With her award-winning feature-film debut, La Ciénaga (The Swamp) (2001), writer-director Lucrecia Martel emerged as one of the brightest figures of the new Argentinean cinema. In her follow up, the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Competition entry, LA NIÑA SANTA (THE HOLY GIRL), Martel intimately explores the burgeoning sexuality and religious fervor of two teenage girls, Amalia (MARIA ALCHÉ) and her best friend, Josefina (JULIETA ZYLBERBERG). Artfully piecing together a mosaic of nuanced details, fragments of sounds, and small moments, Martel creates a potent and specific portrait of adolescent life. In the town of La Ciénaga, Amalia lives with her attractive, divorced mother, Helena (MERCEDES MORÁN), and her uncle, Freddy (ALEJANDRO URDAPILLETA), in the crumbling, run-down Hotel Termas, which her family owns and runs. After choir rehearsals the girls gather in the parish church for further instruction in faith and vocation. What does God want from me? How do I discern between the temptation of the Devil and the calling of God? In between the teachings, the girls gossip and whisper secretively. The lives of the girls and their families intersect with those of a group of visiting orhinolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists) staying at the hotel for a medical convention, including the married, middle-aged Dr. Jano (CARLOS BELLOSO). Continue reading

Lucrecia Martel – La Ciénaga AKA The Swamp (2001)

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Rotten Tomatoes wrote:
This Argentinean tale, which revolves around a group of families passing summer vacation in a rural country house, does not rely on a concrete plotline, but rather roves, rambles, and stumbles upon each new event. The most notable characteristic of La Ciénaga is its mood — a brooding, dreadful, fearsome tension that does not wain or cease even in the very last moment of the film. No event, no action, no exchange of words, no scene of the movie is more or less important than another. Instead, the film continues nonsequentially in what feels like a prolonged wait. Continue reading