An intimate, picaresque inquiry into French life as lived by the country's poor and its provident, as well as by the film's own director, Agnes Varda. The aesthetic, political and moral ... See full summary »
At once exquisitely crafted and exasperating, Martel's latest reflects the confused mental disintegration of a character whose problems are variably inchoate. Her crisis seems spurred by an act of accidental murder--in the countryside, she runs over something.
That it was a German Shepherd is clearly represented in one distinct post-impact shot following a prelude in which the hound is shown playing with several children. But afterward our protagonist (a dyejob-blonde, middle-aged, upper-class woman) has strange ideations of having killed a human being. Is that what really happened? Or is it just her guilt from...whatever?
There's nothing unintended in this very precisely directed movie, but at the same time its ambiguity can be frustrating. (Perhaps less so if you're better acquainted with Argentine class/race issues than me.) It's a mystery without a resolution, a thriller minus thrills. That's OK, but even as deliberate enigma "The Headless Woman" seems somewhat stillborn. (Think what Antonioni circa 1960 could have done with it!)
It's full of interesting detail yet void of larger meaning or narrative direction; intriguing in a way that stops just short of utter fascination. You can't fault the director or her actors for falling short--it's the script (also by Martel) that ends up a little too amorphous.
It's not often you see a movie that feels so close to brilliant, yet something indefinable is missing. This is a good film that perhaps in coming years will gain a reputation as an overlooked masterpiece--and while I can't sign on with that opinion right now, I can see how it might accumulate.
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