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Review – The Headless Woman


A better title would be The Plot-less Movie, or The Humorless Satire. Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s third film, THW follows Veronica (Maria Onetta) who enters an amnesiac and hypnotized state after accidentally running over a child while reaching for her cell phone in her car. Hitherto, Veronica drags through the entire movie in a (boring) daze, while her oblivious family continues their usual bourgeois chatter. See, the joke is no one can tell Veronica is any different– you laughing yet? Add some sentimental crap about how Veronica can’t feel for anyone below her own social class because she’s rich, and you know what to expect.

Basically, the movie is a state of mind: Martel tries to create an enchanting masterpiece of subtlety and wit to reflect Veronica’s amnesia, but ends up with a pretentious POS that drags for seemingly hours. Nothing is enchanting about watching Veronica sit in a daze for 92 minutes. The yuppie banter is purposely boring and useless to illustrate the boring and useless lives of the bourgeoisie, which then makes the film boring and useless (if you think my usage of boring and useless is tiring yet, try THW’s use of it). What I really hate about this film is that it could have been excellent– if Martel wasn’t such an insipid storyteller. Obviously, Martel is heavily influenced by the great director, and one of my personal favorites, Luis Buñuel, who was a master at satirizing bourgeoisie and creating an engaging story. However, Buñuel used surrealism to liven his films because he knew simply showing chatter bored audiences. Conversely, Martel seems to think following some rich chick around all day will create an “unlikely thriller” as the film’s description states.

Even when something happens, it’s still dull! For example, when Veronica finally admits to a guy (he was so lifeless I don’t remember anything about him) that she thinks she ran over a kid, the scene just ends. Then there is a boring driving scene where the guy tells her she’s innocent. Then another boring talking scene. Then Veronica tells another guy what she just told the last guy. Then more boring talking. Then the second boring guy repeats what the first boring guy told her 15 minutes ago. Then Veronica tells another person what she just told to the last two guys, who then repeats the same thing to her. Additionally, there are side story lines, such as Veronica’s affair with another woman’s husband, that go nowhere because their subtlety is supposed be enough to engage the audience.

Ultimately, the premise is intriguing while the execution is painful– and by painful, I mean Eddie Murphy movie painful. I typically enjoy abstract, subtle, and challenging filmmaking like Ingmar Bergman’s Persona or even Tian Zhuangzhuang’s Horse Thief, but THW just sucks. In fact, THW makes Bergman’s Persona– the story of two troubled Swedish women in the same house slowly merging their personalities– look like G.I. Joe.

1/5 stars: requires super-human strength to finish.

Brett Fletcher
Film Critic & Contributing Writer

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