Lucrecia Martel: An Argentinean Filmmaker in the Vein of Buñ
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lucrecia Martel is one gifted artist. Her latest film, 'La Niña santa' (The Holy Girl) was conceived, written and directed in a style that is a tough and puzzling of Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodóvar: what you see on the screen is an enigmatic mixture of sexuality and spirituality, comedy and drama, polemics and parody, all woven together in a fascinatingly beautiful story that demands a lot from the audience. Martel is a talent of enormous potential and magnitude.
In a somewhat seedy hotel somewhere in Argentina (? Buenos Aires,? Rosario) lives divorced party planner Helena (a brilliant Mercedes Morán), her also divorced brother Freddy (Alejandro Urdapilleta), and her teenage daughter Amalia (María Alche). Amalia goes to parochial school with her friend Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg) and there they study Catholic life and the need for a 'vocation'. Both girls are caught up in the throes of adolescent sexual awakening and committed spiritual development, with the loggerheads the two themes can produce. Josefina is having safe sex (ie [...] sex) while demanding that her perpetrator not speak during the act. Amalia finds a different encounter.
In the hotel is a convention of doctors, among them one Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso) who, though married with children, has a secretive act of pressing himself against the buttocks of young girls (an act of molestation), and while listening to a street Thermin player, he rubs against Amalia. Amalia becomes obsessed with the act and its possible permutations and finally decides that this man's redemption is her 'vocation'. While she confides the incidents to Josefina, she otherwise keeps her secret.
Meanwhile Helena is monitoring the doctors' convention and meets Dr Jano, is attracted to him, and agrees to be an 'actress' for a convention closing drama on doctor/patient relationships. Dr Jano is invited to Helena's room where of course he meets the stalking Amalia, and the tension of the multiple innuendoes mounts. Dr Jano's family arrives at the convention dousing Helena's hopes for a assignation, but encouraging Amalia to corner Jano to reassure him he is a good man (ie, she provides his redemption - her 'vocation' commitment for her spiritual training). How this plays out in the end provides the food for post-film thought and is best left for the viewer to see.
Martel's technique for drawing characters is unique and extraordinary, made all the stronger from her carefully selected cast of top-flight actors (many of whom she has used in prior projects, 'La Cienega' etc). Her camera designs (fulfilled by cinematographer Félix Monti) and her wondrous emphasis on sound (including original music by Andres Gerzenson as well as repeated use of thermin reproduction of music by Bach and Bizet) give her film a special look that is becoming her trademark.
Her executive producer is Pedro Almodóvar which should tell the audience a lot about the importance of this film. Lucrecia Martel creates difficult, highly intelligent, at times meandering, but always fascinating movies. She is a budding giant in the industry. In Spanish with English subtitles. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, September 05"
Piety tempered with lust
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 08/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Holy Girl" is an offbeat look at the thin line that separates piety from eroticism in the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl. Amalia lives with her mother and uncle in a family-run hotel which is currently hosting a medical convention for a group of out-of-town doctors. Amalia has been convinced by her religious instructor that she needs to seek a spiritual "calling" if she is to fulfill her duty as a pious child of God. When one of the doctors from the convention intentionally rubs up against her in a crowd (at this point he doesn't yet realize that she is the daughter of the hotel proprietress), Amalia determines that her "calling" will be the salvation of the man's soul. Thus, she begins to spy on the man, eventually arousing his suspicion and causing a great deal of trouble for them both. The problem is that Amalia, just beginning to blossom into a sexual being in her own right, can't avoid infusing lustful thoughts for the man into her spiritual meditations. To further complicate matters, Amalia's mother, Helena, has begun to have feelings for the doctor herself, completely unaware of the strange connection that exists between him and her daughter.
Written and directed by Lucretia Martel, this Argentine film takes its time setting up its storyline and introducing its characters. At first it feels unfocused and unclear as we try to figure out who is who and how everyone is related to everyone else, but eventually Martel manages to bring all the elements together so that we become intrigued by what the film is showing us. Amalia seems like any other teenager who is trying to balance a burgeoning sexuality with the strong religious convictions inculcated in her by those around her, while Dr. Jano comes across less as an evil pedophile than as a pathetic middle-aged man who should know better than to actually act upon his perverse sexual impulses. And even though Helena is less directly involved in the main plot of the film than these other two characters, she is actually the figure on whom our interest truly alights, mainly thanks to Mercedes Moran who is lovely and dignified in the role of an aging, but still beautiful woman whose life seems to have lost much of its meaning in recent years (her ex-husband is about to become the father of twins with his new wife, a fact that does not sit well with the slighted Helena).
"The Holy Girl" doesn't try to dazzle us with scenes of high drama or a sordid resolution, or even a resolution of any kind, which may frustrate the more literal-minded among us. It lets its story play out naturally, almost to the point where the movie seems to be drifting aimlessly from time to time. Yet, we stay involved thanks to the unusual storyline and the fine performances by Moran, Alche and Belloso. This isn't what one would call a major work, but it provides some food for thought about how we can't always control the events we foolishly and thoughtlessly set into motion (Amalia and Dr. Jano both learn this truism the hard way). It's a lesson, the film insists, that we heed or ignore at our own peril."
Charming film well worth seeing...
S. Callihan | Seattle, WA USA | 03/09/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"for those patient enough to listen to the dialogue, understand the characters, and enter into the world the director creates. The style of the film is clearly influenced by Almodóvar, who was one of the executive producers. If you like Almodóvar, you'll probably like The Holy Girl; if not, you probably won't.
Although convincingly playing a 15- or 16-year old, she was actually about 20 when the film was shot (for those who might be concerned by the masturbation scene and girl-girl kissing scene). While the film has an R rating, there is no nudity or violence to speak of, just the frank and delicate treatment of a young girl's sexual awakening.