The Headless Woman
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A bourgeois woman is driving alone on a dirt road, becomes distracted, and runs over something. In the days following this jarring incident, she is dazed and emotionally disconnected from the people and events in her life. She becomes obsessed with the possibility that she may have killed someone. The police confirm that there were no accidents reported in the area and everything returns to normal until a gruesome discovery is made. Lucrecia Martel's third feature after the acclaimed La Cienaga and The Holy Girl examines the intricacies of class status and the role of women in a male-dominated society.
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As an audience, we are all eavesdroppers (or voyeurs) when we watch a movie. And Martel's sensibility, or way of telling a story, is not only to provide clues to what she is investigating, but to inform us with what she considers important about it. There is a bit of Hitchcock (Rear Window comes to mind), and certainly some of Altman's audio technique around conversation. There is also an exploration of neurosis that one might liken to Almodovar (her producer), yet without the bold, soap operatic farce. And there is also something of Bergman and Antonioni.
La Mujer Sin Cabeza (while not my favorite of her films) is still a sure step forward as a filmmaker. This is not only her most focused film, but it makes use of a more developed cinematic technique than either of her previous two films. Strangely, it has not been received as well. The problem, I believe, has much to due to the predisposition of most film viewers, who not only lack of patience, but the ability to adjust to a film operating in ways they are not accustomed to.
Martel's narratives may seem disjointed at first, as they jump from one scene to another without obvious connection, but they are extremely well thought out. The problem, as I said, has more to do with confounded viewer expectations, and the inability to adapt to a different approach in cinematic narrative, one that is very appropriate to the content of Martel's design. For the uninitiated, her films benefit from a second viewing, if only because what at first seems insignificant or disconnected is actually very important, and provides access to her dry subtle satire.
The power of "Mujer Sin Cabeza," (as with all films) is grounded in our perceptions of the main character's experience (or our experience of her perceptions), which not only infect us with her mental / emotional state, but draw us into the kind of life that she leads, in the balance, providing us a window into modern day Argentina.
Here, we are also made aware of a social system in the midst of decay, being held together by the ever more twisted and frayed threads of a colonial past that seeks preservation, in spite of increasing moral disfunction, and the inability to take responsibility for anything that interferes with the social system beyond making it disappear...
This is the first foreign language DVD I've ever purchased that had no option for turning off the subtitles. This was especially annoying for me because I'm trying to learn the language and didn't want to see the translation. I think anyone who already knows the language would be equally annoyed at being forced to watch the subtitles.
I can give this DVD release only three stars due the poor functionality.
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