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ENT physicians gather at a provincial hotel in Salta. The hotel owner, Helena, is subdued, brittle, avoiding the calls of her ex-husband's pregnant wife. Family dysfunction seems everywhere. Helena's daughter, Amalia, about 14, discusses vocations in a Catholic girls group. Their teen imaginations conflate the erotic, the religious, and the lurid. Amalia notices Dr. Jano, and he notices her. She decides to make him her vocation, she follows him, he rubs against her in a public crowd, he's appalled at his actions. Meanwhile, Helena believes Jano is attracted to her even though he's married. Longing, guilt, scandal, and teen sensuality are set to collide. Written by
More admirable than attractive is Lucrecia Martel's "The Holy Girl" even at this time I am feeling a steady amount of ambivalence toward this maddeningly beautiful film. Is this kind of paradoxical relationship even possible? Even the proverbial sinner in his love/hate toward expiation seems dubious.
The film follows Amalia and her friend Josefina's exploits as they navigate their way through a summer of adolescence. Sanctimonious doesn't even begin to describe them indeed, Amalia is wanting to screw a man she's trying to "save" while Josefina regards her Catholic school teacher with disdain due to the good teacher's sexual adventures even though Josefina herself takes it up the arse from her horny boyfriend. This shopworn irony regarding the duality and dialectical impulses in hormonal, affectedly pious people grows wearisome on the attention span.
Okay, but I used the adjective "beautiful" earlier. And it most certainly is from a logistical standpoint. The DP composed seemingly interminable, achingly gorgeous shots of the action. He had no qualms about not using deep-focus photography (in which everything in the frame is in focus). This style harks back to the old American B&W's in which they were not afraid to focus on only one piece of the frame while leaving the rest in a blurry discombobulation. A power erupts from the screen the more pronounced these shots are. However, it must be said, the steady frequency of all this becomes stultifying to an annoying degree like chocolate in endless supply, it becomes too much of a good thing.
This cloying film would have been great if it didn't try so hard to be a great film. Art house flicks mostly subscribe to an overly snobby and abundantly complex ideological schema. Is a show-off praiseworthy? Not in this case.
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