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Lucrecia Martel (#110 of 2)

New York Film Festival 2008: The Headless Woman and Tony Manero

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New York Film Festival 2008: <em>The Headless Woman</em> and <em>Tony Manero</em>
New York Film Festival 2008: <em>The Headless Woman</em> and <em>Tony Manero</em>

Thursday was NYFF’s day of South American cinema. The morning brought Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman, the afternoon Pablo Larraín’s Tony Manero. Both are staggering in different ways. Let’s start with the harder one. I’ve never been a fan of Martel—arguably the most prominent Argentinian director this side of the millennium (exactly the kind of description that can drive people crazy, but whatever). Martel is obviously a sophisticated filmmaker, but she alienated me greatly in La Cienaga and The Holy Girl with her shaky-cam—not to be confused with the Michael Mann school of trying to catch gorgeous momentary accidents or the Assayas school of nervous energy, but far more thematically related. Cienaga’s camera is part of the humid irritability, The Holy Girl’s connected with the film’s general interest in touching and not touching bodies, things always being just this close but impossible to connect with. Martel’s cinema is fundamentally one of misdirection and missed connections; all of these things make sense, but they set my teeth on edge. This kind of camera is why it took me a good three or four movies to come around on Olivier Assayas. I’m an idiot.

Cannes Film Festival 2008: Changeling, Delta, The Headless Woman, & Che

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Cannes Film Festival 2008: <em>Changeling</em>, <em>Delta</em>, <em>The Headless Woman</em>, & <em>Che</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2008: <em>Changeling</em>, <em>Delta</em>, <em>The Headless Woman</em>, & <em>Che</em>

Changeling (Clint Eastwood). Few things over the past week have been more baffling to me than when the solid but deeply flawed Changeling began racking up the most positive reviews of the fest. I’m not sure whether it’s the international press’ tendency to praise Eastwood for anything he does, or whether I was simply too exhausted to recognize that it is, in fact, a near-masterpiece, but there has yet to be another film on which my opinion and the reviews have differed so strongly.

In the first line of his Variety review, Todd McCarthy favorably compares the film to the overwrought Mystic River, which might, despite my inability to see what the hell thematic similarities the films have, help to explain my reservations. Because despite his typically graceful and lovely directorial hand, Eastwood seems, with Changeling, to have embraced his melodramatic side whole-heartedly. Some of the film is beautiful and moving. The rest tends toward the unbelievable and shrill.