255 Great Directors: Lucrecia Martel

“My love of storytelling comes from oral tradition, the stories from my grandmother and conversations with [my] mother. The world is full of discussions of condensation, drifts, misunderstanding, repetition. These are the materials I work with. My debt is to these women.”

What Got This Director Here?
: Three for three.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: N/A

What Did I Watch: All three: La Cienaga, The Holy Girl, The Headless Woman.

Where Does She Fit: I can already tell that I need to rewatch La Cienaga. So much to love and so much that is deeply frustrating, from the use of sound to immerse us into a world where everyone is trapped in the titular swamp and nobody is happy and all ages are confused, to the fact that the racism aspect towards the Indian class of Argentina is deeply unsubtle and is practically explicitly part of the text. The unusual rhythms and repitive noises are entrancing and probably should be experienced properly at some point. Definitely a major debut, but one that needs a second look.

The Holy Girl, meanwhile, takes Martel’s unusual use of sound and takes it to insane levels with an opening song, a theremin, a maid who comes in to spray the rooms with hissing air freshener, and so on. We even have a convention of ear doctors at the hotel, with one of them sexually assaulting the main character. He is handsome, she is religious and confused and thinks it is her mission to save him…but really, all that happens is she annoys him and not much overall happens. Confusing, perhaps, but as an evocation of a mood it’s hard to beat.


The Headless Woman is the most unsettling and her best, in part because the lead actress Maria Onetto hits something and while it’s likely a dog, the fact that she recalls it as being a child is deeply unsettling in itself, especially with the two bumps and the handprints on the window. Her trance, combined with the fact that a Martel film always sounds like it’s about to descend into Lynchian madness, is spooky, especially given how flexible it is as a metaphor for life in Argentina and everywhere else when you’re a rich white passing lady. Something special and spooky.


Most Valuable Asset: Weird senses of sound.
Most Excited For: Her upcoming sci-fi movie.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Yes.

Coming Up Next: Perfectionist pursuer, Darren Aronofsky.


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