Review: 'The Headless Woman'

Argentine film is a complex, ultimately confusing tale about a woman losing the plot of her own life.

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    Actress María Onetto in The Headless Woman.
    Strand Releasing
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Driving from what may be her brother's home or a resort or a vacation house, an Argentine dentist (María Onetto) hits either a dog or a boy or a phantom, then goes into shock or a fugue state or a fog of confusion. And, lemme tell ya, bub, by the time the credits roll 80 minutes later, the audience is right there with her. Writer/director Lucrecia Martel's last outing, "The Holy Girl," was no great shakes, but at least it was coherent. Here, characters are indistinguishable, time jumps abound, and no one seems to notice that, for most of the film, our heroine is acting like a zombie. Martel – having listed Herk Harvey's ultra-low-budget 1962 horror film "Carnival of Souls" as a favorite – has now more or less remade it as an "art film": that is, she's slathered the pretentiousness on so thick that all the fun is gone. The disjointedness of "The Headless Woman" might be the result of narrative complexity or of directorial ineptitude or (my favorite) of narrative complexity mangled by directorial ineptitude. If the residual fog ever clears, maybe I'll be able to tell you for sure. Grade: D.

Peter Rainer, the Monitor's regular film critic, is on vacation this week.

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