291) The Headless Woman (2008) Dir: Lucrecia Martel Date Released: August 2009 Date Seen: September 12, 2009 Rating: 3.25/5
Since Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel's The Headless Woman relies entirely on its unnerving mood of foreboding to delivers its emotional and intellectual payoff, its hard not to be primarly disappointed by its myopic world and then its worldview. As we watch Vero (Maria Onetto), a blond-coiffed, middle-aged upper-class bourgie, stumble around in a daze after hitting a dog with her car, the film's central question becomes: "Is this woman's behavior a product of her accident or her personality?" The answer is meant to be "Both," a blunt social critique that Martel establishes through monotonous episodes that are too obvious to be either immediately mysterious or retrospectively profound.
The Headless Woman's worst scenes announce Martel's intentions too plainly--Vero cannot interact with anyone outside of her own social circle and even then, her frosty behavior marks her as one of them, one of them--and with too much reserve. If Martel had gone farther in either respect and made Vero's discombobulation a little more impressionistic, or better yet a little less staid in its routine,* I would've been affected enough to like it. As it is, I admire it. From a distance.
*Eventually, Vero's default look of shock upon entering any new room, which is really every room thanks to the "accident," invites snickers. Martel films her mostly using a handful of rote positions--behind Vero's back with her full body in frame, being a favorite--to show that every place is the same to her body and hence to her detached mind. This sounds a lot more thoughtful than it looks. Seeing the same woman reacting the same way in different places is a bit much after a while, especially when that sensation is meant to surpass any kind of plot.