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HEADLESS WOMAN, THE(LA MUJER SIN CABEZA) (director/writer: Lucrecia Martel; cinematographer: Bárbara Álvarez; editor: Miguel Schverdfinger; cast: María Onetto (Verónica), Claudia Cantero (Josefina), Inés Efron (Candita), Daniel Genoud (Juan Manuel), César Bordón (Marcos), Guillermo Arengo (Marcelo), María Vaner (Lala), Claudia Cantero (Josefina); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producerS: Pedro Almodóvar/Agustín Almodóvar/Esther García/Verónica Cura/Enrique Piñeyro/Ms. Martel/Marianne Slot/Vieri Razzini/Cesare Petrillo/Tilde Corsi; Strand Releasing; 2008-Argentina-in Spanish with English subtitles)
It’s a heady study of a successful woman in a patriarchal society.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Argentine filmmakerLucrecia Martel (“The Swamp”/”The Holy Girl”) in this subtle tale about the advantages of upper-class status, explores how the privileged can get away with murder.

The affluent middle-aged dentist Vero (María Onetto), runs a successful dental clinic with her brother, is driving alone along a quiet dirt road in Macu, Argentina, after visiting a potter, when she’s distracted by her cell phone and hears a loud thud but, nevertheless, she drives on without looking if she hit something. Later she notices a fender dent. In the following days Vero becomes disorientated and has a disconnect and walks around in a trance-like state. She has some memory loss and gets X-rays at the hospital, and wonders if she hit an animal, a person or if it’s only imaginary. Vero finally tells her distracted husband Marcos (César Bordón), who investigates and tells her that there are no police reports of a dead person in the area and that she could have hit only a dog.

What actually happened remains in suspense until the ending reveals that indeed a body was found in the nearby canal, a week later. We follow Vero around for that troubling week, who is anxious to tell the truth and get this off her chest (bringing an unease to her complacent life), but hubby has already figured things out and covered-up her tracks. What we get is an eye-opening look at Vero’s comfortable but empty life and how she conducts herself with one of her spoiled children, her nasty mom (María Vaner), her lover (Daniel Genoud)-the trusted cousin of her hubby-and her well-connected husband.

It’s a heady study of a successful woman in a patriarchal society, as underneath the mystery story there unfolds a dream-like look at a self-absorbed woman becoming self-conscious of her life for the first time. It also brings up political implications in regards to how the power structure favors the upper-classes, as it ends in a pessimistic way showing that the rich can’t voluntarily change their ways (after Vero’s initial concerns and eliciting perhaps a little sympathy from the viewer, she easily goes back to her meaningless bourgeois life and we once again find little to like about her). It also subtly shows how little the life of a missing potter’s errand boy is valued, as he is quickly replaced without a stir.

Onetto gives a brilliant dream-like performance, and the directing is first-class for this superior mesmerizing film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”