East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Holy Girl, or, You're making it hard for me [SFIFF '05 movie note]

A young woman (Mía Maestro) serenades God with a declaration of her patheticness; her face revealing devotion while her voice remains clear. Meanwhile, her students Amalia (María Alche) and Jose (Julieta Zylberberg) snicker over Jose seeing her with her tongue down her boyfriend's throat. Despite the giggling, Amalia longs for contact with God. Jose has more profane outlets for reliving boredom, but she plays along, sketching Amalia's descriptions of closed-eyed sight. But it's when, in the midst of a crowd watching a theremin performance, an older man (Carlos Belloso) presses his crotch against her, that Amalia finds her mission. Except her idea of soul-saving is more erotic than you'd think God would like.

The religious themes are soon backgrounded - Amalia becomes just another stalker - and the success of the rhyming plot centred on the perv flirting with Amalia's mom (Mercedes Morán) is more moderate, but Lucrecia Martel's movie is humane throughout. Although she's accusing middle-class religion of being as self-serving as any other aspect of bourgie life, she doesn't blame her characters: "You're a good man," Amalia tells her feeler-upper. Martel deploys some neat tricks: on a roadside, the reputed site of a post-car crash miracle, where a fade to silence fills the air with Amalia's mindstate. At the abrupt ending, while some of the characters teeter on the edge of ruin, Martel shoots Amalia and Jose floating in a heated pool, warmed by the irresponsibility that's both their privilege and joy.


Martel on the connection between her family and her E.P. Pedro Almodóvar: "They really resemble the women in those films." But Lucrecia, how then were you conceived?


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