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Thread: La Niña Santa (aka The Holy Girl) (2004) (Argentina)

  1. #1
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    La Niña Santa (aka The Holy Girl) (2004) (Argentina)

    La Niña Santa (aka The Holy Girl) (2004) (Argentina)


    I guess some of you have watched it ... but are awaiting for it to be widely screened before reviewing it ...

    The movie will get a release in America in Summer ...
    ;)
    So, I guess more reviews can be anticipated ...


    Now back to my review ...
    I will skip the synopsis because it contributes a spoiler ... :P

    I presume I have set too high an expectation of the movie, so the movie only comes across as very good to excellent ... but NOT a big "wow ..."
    ... I am not sure about others, but I find that having a controversial theme does not necessary equate with a "must watch" movie ... ;)
    ... It does have many good technics or potential ... but it may lose the audience with its pacing, vagueness and non resolution ...
    ... However, the SAME approach can be perceived as ponderous, abstraction and reality ... hee hee


    What I like?
    -- The well depicted "confusion" of adolescence ...
    e.g., even at the end, it was unclear to the audience whether the teenage female protagonost did it out of love/desire or salvation for the doctor ...
    -- The concurrent power and vulnerability of any characteristic (be it sexual, roles, occupation, age, etc) ...
    e.g., is her sexuality power or vulnerability?
    -- The blur between good and evil, morality and immorality, etc etc etc ...
    e.g., is she a victim or a hero ...

    -- As usual, I always like this kind of ending ... an ending without closure ... ha ha ha ... some audience will hate it, but I do like it ...


    What may be problematic (to some)?
    -- It is quite slow/average paced ... so, some audience may lose their patience ...
    -- As mentioned, the ending has no closure ... so some audience will frown ...


    Q&A:
    (the gist, not in verbatim)


    Q: Which directors or movies influence you?
    A: I am ashamed to say it, but I am not very conversant about movies ... so, I am not exactly influenced by any director's style ...

    Q: Is the movie faithful to the original script? Has anything been edited out of the movie?
    A: It is pretty faithful to the script, any changes (which are few) are due to the budget ... If you are trying to ask about the ending ... nope ... I did not edit out any scenes ... it was scripted to end that way and nothing more was filmed ...
    * audience laughed *

    Q: What do you think happen in the end?
    A: Maybe after a few months, the scandal will get worse, maybe not ... I would rather let the audience decide for themselves ...

    Q: The movie credited Pedro and Agustin Almodóvar, what is your relationship with them? Did they influence the film?
    A: It is difficult to find an investment in Argentina ... so I thought about it and decided to try Spain ... I sent them the script and fortunately, they liked it and decided to invest in it ...

    Nope ... they pretty much left it to me to direct the film ...

    Q: How did you start on filming or this movie?
    A: I have a big family. When I was young, my father bought us a videocam, but at those times, it cost as much as a CAR!
    * audience laughed *

    So, my father said who could know the workings of the videocam best would handle it. Guess what, I started taking the manual and memorizing it ...

    As for the hotel, we used to visit it when I was young ...

    Q: You depicted a scene of the teenage girl * censored *? Would the American audience accept it?
    A: I do not think it is very explicitly depicted ... I think my other films have more explicit scenes ...


    In sum: I would recommend it if you like controversial movies.
    ;)
    But it is done it a subtle and slow paced way ...

  2. #2
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    A.O. Scott's review in the New York Times today calls this film "a miracle".

    http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/04/2...s/29holy.html?

    Unfortunately no release date yet on big screen here...but I'll keep my eyes peeled.

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by JustaFied
    A.O. Scott's review in the New York Times today calls this film "a miracle".

    http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/04/2...s/29holy.html?

    Unfortunately no release date yet on big screen here...but I'll keep my eyes peeled.
    LOL. As we talked about in another thread, even the critics are having a hard time. Kent Jones wanted her to design a spaceship or become a president. "Miracle" is possibly the apt term to describe this film. A.O. Scott also wrote about Lucrecia Martel a few weeks ago in NYT Magazine; unfortunately, the article isn't available anymore. She was called "one of the bravest and most original filmmakers in the world," something some of us already knew.

    Thanks for the link, Justafied. I also wanted to add that The Holy Girl is now playing in NY (in 2 theaters). It is scheduled to premiere in other cities on May 13th. I want to see it again before I try to write about it. I don't think anyone is truly capable to tell you the truth as it's obvious from what's out there now.

  4. #4
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    Another film we had on release a while ago and one I held back from reviewing because of the time difference in general release with the US. Unfortunately like arsaib4, I now feel I need to see it again before I can give any indepth comments.

    I do remember how subtle it was, maybe too subtle for some and the open ending was perfect because it left so much scope for your own thoughts.

    Cheers Trev.
    The more I learn the less I know.

  5. #5
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    Here is my review

    THE HOLY GIRL (La Nina Santa)

    Directed by Lucrecia Martel (2004)

    "The Holy Girl is not about the confrontation between good and evil, but about the difficulties in distinguishing one from the other" - Lucrecia Martel


    The combination of budding adolescent sexuality and Catholic Sunday School sermonizing leads to confusion and trouble in Lucrecia Martel's remarkable second film The Holy Girl. Similar in style to Alain Cavalier's masterful Thérése, another film about religious fervor, The Holy Girl is an extremely intimate series of minimalist vignettes in which the story unfolds in glimpses and whispered conversations, in "a slow reverie of quick moments". As in Thérése, there is no approval or disapproval of behavior, only a snapshot of events that the viewer is left to interpret -- and it can be a challenge.

    Set in La Salta, the same small Northern Argentine town as Martel's first feature La Ciénaga, the film takes place at a run down hotel that is hosting a medical convention of ear, nose, and throat doctors. The scene is a constant flux of people and movement and it is difficult at first to sort out the characters. Amalia (Maria Alché) is the sixteen-year old daughter of the hotel's manager Helena (Mercedes Moran) who is recently divorced and lives with her brother Freddy (Alejandro Urdapilleta). Helena suffers from an inner ear problem that is reflected in a discordant ringing noise that affects her relationship with the world around her.

    As the film opens, Inés (Mia Maestro), a young Catholic teacher leads a group of girls in choir practice. "What is it, Lord, you want of me?" she sings. Overcome with emotion, tears well up in her eyes but Amalia and her friend Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg) merely whisper to each other about the teacher's alleged love affairs. The talk in class is about the student's "mission" and how they can recognize the signs that point to God's calling. Amalia thinks she sees a sign when a doctor attending the conference, Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso) goes in for some sexual touching while she stands in a group listening to a performance on the Theremin, an instrument that is not touched, but is played by disturbing the surrounding air (perhaps the way adults ought to deal with adolescents).

    The character's motivations are complex and defy easy categorizing. Jano is a family man with children but seems driven by sexual longings. Helena, still seething that her ex-husband has just fathered twins by his new wife, is attracted to Jano but her advances are not reciprocated and her relationship with Freddy has a hint of more than brotherly love. Josefina teases her young cousin but holds back from committing herself, yet fully engages in kissing with Amalia, though what it means to them is uncertain. Amalia thinks that her mission is to save Dr. Jano and seductively follows him around the hotel, even entering his room when he is not there. At first not relating Amalia's stalking to the incident in the crowd, Jano becomes fearful that his medical career will be jeopardized when he discovers her identity, but the die is cast and Amalia's casual relating the incident to Josefina leads to unintended results.

    The Holy Girl is elusive and somewhat disorienting, yet it remains an extraordinary achievement, full of intensity and crackling tension, true to the way people act when they are dealing with feelings bubbling beneath the surface. The girls live in their own little world, oblivious to the havoc they have unleashed and it is Martel's brilliant direction that allows us to enter that world, and it is not always comfortable. What happens in the film may be inappropriate but it never seems perverse. We expect the characters to be either heroes or villains but Martel sees them only as flawed human beings. Like the knowing half-smile etched on Amalia's face, her universe is imbued with a mystery that simply observes rather than evaluates. If the ending does not provide us with immediate gratification, it may be because it respects that mystery.

    GRADE A-
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  6. #6
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    Re: Here is my review

    Originally posted by Howard Schumann
    THE HOLY GIRL (La Nina Santa)

    If the ending does not provide us with immediate gratification, it may be because it respects that mystery.
    Beautifully stated. The Holy Girl is my favorite among all the films that've come out this year. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago (along with a few other films) but ended up losing my zip-disc which contained all the comments, and it's something I'm very angry about. I'll try to put something together one more time, but I'm very happy that you decided to review it.

  7. #7
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    Re: Re: Here is my review

    Originally posted by arsaib4


    Beautifully stated. The Holy Girl is my favorite among all the films that've come out this year. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago (along with a few other films) but ended up losing my zip-disc which contained all the comments, and it's something I'm very angry about. I'll try to put something together one more time, but I'm very happy that you decided to review it.
    Thanks. I'd very much enjoy reading your comments.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  8. #8
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    The Holy Girl (Argentina, 2004)

    Some of the best directors from Argentina, such as Lisandro Alonso and Carlos Sorin, are setting their films far from Buenos Aires and other large urban centers. Lucrecia Martel, with only two features helmed, has earned a prominent place among them. Her debut La Cienaga and The Holy Girl take place in the province of Salta, the latter in the town of Rosario de la Frontera. Martel builds her narrative out of brief sequences and, by eschewing establishing and transitional shots, she often disorients the viewer and focuses his/her attention.

    Amalia, the titular character, is a teenage girl being raised in the same family-owned hotel where her mother Helena and uncle Freddy grew up. She'a member of a Catholic youth group that meets at the hotel. We witness a discussion on how to recognize when God makes a "calling", thus assigning a "mission". Amalia's best friend Josefina appears more interested in rumours that the seemingly devout group leader is having "premarital relations", which are highly discouraged. After the meeting, Amalia crosses the street to listen to a musician playing the theremin outside a music store. A man stands behind her and presses his groin against her buttocks. The stranger scuttles away when Amalia turns around. Amalia goes to her mother's room and lies next to her. She points to a pamphlet Helena holds and asks "Who is he?". Helena identifies the man as one of the doctors attending a medical conference at the hotel. Later on, Amalia tells Josefina:"I think I have a mission". She proceeds to track and spy on the perpetrator, now identified as Dr. Jano. She goes as far as placing herself immediately in front of Jano during a second theremin performance, with similar results.

    Jano is no stranger to Helena and Freddy. He used to vacation at the hotel decades ago. He remembers when Helena gave diving exhibitions. "We used to call you Esther Williams", he tells her.Freddy, who's ambivalent about calling his estranged kids, actually attended medical school with Jano, before dropping out. Jano begins to show a great deal of interest in Helena, who keeps refusing to take calls from her ex-husband and his new wife. Jano approaches Helena while she sunbathes, follows her into the elevator, and convinces other colleagues that she is the ideal person to play the patient in a role-playing exercise being organized. Jano calls his wife and attempts to dissuade her from coming to Rosario de la Frontera with their kids, as planned. He fails, and eventually Jano learns the persistent teen is Helena's daughter. Josefina, who hypocritically meets her cousin for sex on their grandmother's bed, betrays Amalia's confidence and tells her parents everything. The situation threatens to turn into a scandal.

    The Holy Girl becomes a compendium of missed or thwarted callings and misunderstood signals. In Martel's universe, beds take on great significance, not only places where people have sex and sleep, but meeting places where important events and meaningful exchanges transpire. The hotel, where medical conferences and group meetings take place, becomes an enclosed, neutral ground for a battle between science and religion. Inside Amalia's psyche, perhaps in ways Martel is unwilling to reveal with clarity, an uneasy and somewhat perplexing accomodation between sexual longings and divine aspirations.

    Lucrecia Martel's filmography evidence a unique, personal vision. A rare thing. With The Holy Girl, she comes even closer to the full realization of that vision than she did in the admirable debut.

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