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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
Lucrecia Martel: An Argentinean Filmmaker in the Vein of Buñuel and Almodóvar
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 anal 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 innuendos 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. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
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