Sunday 26 January 2020

Movies: The Headless Woman * * * *

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Produced by no less a luminary than Pedro Almodovar, Argentine writer/director Lucrecia Martel's Headless Woman has been compared by over-excited critics to Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura.

This seems a little wide of the mark, however, because although Martel's film is as short on action and useful information as the Antonioni classic, that's pretty much all it has in common with it.

As the film opens, a peroxide-blonde women in her middle years is driving her car along a dust road beside a canal when she is momentarily distracted and runs over something.

In the ensuing crash, she suffers a concussion and seems entirely bewildered by the time she ends up in hospital. Which perhaps explains why, although she appears happily married, she subsequently seduces her husband's best friend when he meets her in a hotel where she has gone to recuperate.

That's the least of her problems, though, because as she gradually regains her memory she hears talk of a local boy who's gone missing and becomes more and more convinced that she must have run over him. Martel's film is stylishly assembled, and full of telling little details that give insights into character and the destination of the plot. It also features a suitably enigmatic performance from its concussed leading lady, Maria Onetto.

But in the end, and for all its flair, The Headless Woman's lack of context and storytelling rigour leaves it verging on pretension, and its enthusiastic pursuit of half-lit naval-gazing treads a fine line between profundity and tedium.

Irish Independent

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