Combustible Celluloid
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With: María Onetto, Claudia Cantero, César Bordón, Daniel Genoud, Guillermo Arengo, Inés Efron, Alicia Muxo, Pía Uribelarrea, María Vaner
Written by: Lucrecia Martel
Directed by: Lucrecia Martel
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 87
Date: 05/21/2008

The Headless Woman (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Blonde Joke

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The talented Argentinean filmmaker Lucrecia Martel delivers her third film with The Headless Woman; it moves in a disappointing direction away from Martel's previous features La Ciénaga (2001) and The Holy Girl (2004). In those films, Martel showed a knack for mixing a kind of relaxed, plotless observance of a time and place with a heavy atmosphere of stagnation and decay. The Headless Woman is less atmospheric and less centralized, and focuses more on a driving plot. Unfortunately, it's a plot that doesn't really go anywhere. The aging beauty Vero (María Onetto) runs over something in her car but drives away from the scene just before a powerful rain causes havoc, flooding everything and washing everything away. At first she stumbles around in a peculiar state, almost as if she has amnesia from hitting her head on the steering wheel. But at some point, she comes to terms with what happens and blurts it out: "I think I may have killed someone." Eventually Vero finds ways to re-enter her life. We never find out who -- or what -- Vero actually hit, though Martel's prologue, with three boys (one an outcast harelip) and a dog playing near the canal, haunts the entire film. The trouble is that while Martel's tactile touch is still fascinating, her setup too closely resembles something that ought to be moving forward (it rarely stays in one spot for long). And yet it doesn't really move, nor does it plumb any depths.

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