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A Woman Under the Voidance

MOVIE REVIEW
The Headless Woman (2008)

21_María_Onetto
Strand Releasing

An existential mystery about an amnesiac woman reorienting herself back to her world after sustaining a head trauma in a car accident, Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s “The Headless Woman” challenges our perceptions of class, gender, profession, memory and the interpersonal relationships that collectively form our identities. Mesmerizingly sweeping and hazy, the film follows Verónica (María Onetto) as she attempts to fake her way back into her marriage, job and daily routines as if everything is just fine, thank you. We gather clues to her former self by watching her passively allowing everyone in her life to take the lead in every interaction. But while she seems to be successfully fooling her family, friends and colleagues, Verónica loses her grip on reality when she comes to believe that she has accidentally killed someone in the very car accident that erased her memory.

After “La ciénaga” and “The Holy Girl,” two stunning portraits of Argentina’s crumbling bourgeoisie, Ms. Martel here firmly establishes her mastery by exacting — amid a dream-like fog — suspense, horror, humor and sympathy from a protagonist who is so emotionally vacant and detached from the world. But Verónica is not exactly unidentifiable, especially to anyone who has ever told a white lie, led a double life or let guilt take over after a regrettable moral compromise. Although it’s merely 87 minutes long, “The Headless Woman” will leave you completely stunned with your jaw dragging the floor. Yep, it’s that awesome.

THE HEADLESS WOMAN

Opens on Aug. 19 in New York, on Sept. 4 in Los Angeles and on Feb. 19, 2010 in Britain.

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel; director of photography, Bárbara Álvarez; edited by Miguel Schverdfinger; art director, Maria Eugenia Sueiro; produced by Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García, Verónica Cura, Enrique Piñeyro, Ms. Martel, Marianne Slot, Vieri Razzini, Cesare Petrillo and Tilde Corsi; released by Strand Releasing (United States) and New Wave Films (Britain). In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. This film is not rated by MPAA and rated 12A by BBFC.

WITH: María Onetto (Verónica), Claudia Cantero (Josefina), Inés Efron (Candita), Daniel Genoud (Juan Manuel), César Bordón (Marcos), Guillermo Arengo (Marcelo) and María Vaner (Lala).

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