(La Mujer sin cabeza, 2008) Lucrecia Martel’s three muggy, opulent features, variations on family dramas, share stories of cultural myopia and bourgeois discontent; “La ciénaga” (2001) was confounding on first viewing, with the lassitude of its privileged characters and an assertively fractured, often inscrutable visual style. “La niña santa” (“The Holy Girl,” 2004) is rich and troubling in its portrait of a young girl hoping to convert a middle-aged lecher, yet “The Headless Woman” may be the 42-year-old writer-director’s most accomplished, obstinate in its glassy formalist beauty: this is disorientation and disarray, most artfully parceled out. Verónica, a peroxided middle-aged woman (Maria Onetto) of a certain privilege commits a possible hit-and-run after a car accident in the opening passage: what did she hit? Did she hit anything? Haziness, thematic and literal, ensues. Her every stroke of consciousness is fearful: portent is all. Martel’s use of sound is worthy of the best horror filmmaking. Psychological miniaturism, boldly imagined, “The Headless Woman” (the title comes from an Argentine phrase for “The woman who lost her head,” or a scatty person) is a daunting puzzle solved only by embracing dread and a gratifying experimental style. Clues clatter. Confusion reigns. From Almodóvar’s El Deseo production company. 87m. Anamorphic 2.40 widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“The Headless Woman” opens Friday at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.