Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Senses of an Ending: On LA NIÑA SANTA/ THE HOLY GIRL

A video about the ending of Lucrecia Martel's LA NIÑA SANTA / THE HOLY GIRL (2004), using insights about the film from Deborah Martin's book THE CINEMA OF LUCRECIA MARTEL (Manchester University Press, 2016) and Sophie Mayer's chapter 'Gutta cavat lapidem: The sonorous politics of Lucrecia Martel's swimming pools', in THE CINEMA OF THE SWIMMING POOL, eds. Christopher Brown and Pam Hirsch (Peter Lang, 2014).


The video is dedicated to pioneering queer and feminist film curator and critic B. Ruby Rich, one of the foremost advocates of the work of LA NIÑA SANTA's director, and much other queer New Argentine, and Latin American Cinema. Rich's career was justly celebrated at a screening and discussion event taking place between June 21-25, 2017, at the Barbican Cinema (and other London venues) as part of their 2017 Film in Focus season. The event was entitled ‘Being Ruby Rich’ and is sponsored by Film London and co-curated by Club des Femmes, the queer-feminist film curating collective. LA NIÑA SANTA, a film championed by Rich, alongside Martel's other films, was screened with an introduction by Sophie Mayer at the Barbican Cinema on June 25.

Also see the following online celebration of Rich's work (with lots of links to accessible resources) here:

Friday, 7 September 2012

Paranoid Hermeneutics as Queer Cinematic Vernacular

The above video presentation by Catherine Grant, which discusses Lucrecia Martel's 2008 film La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman, was delivered at the "Queer Cinema and the Politics of the Global" Workshop held at the University of Sussex, UK, on May 12, 2012.

The Workshop was the first in a series of events held by the Global Queer Cinema researcj network project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and based at Sussex.

For more information about this research project please visit the Global Queer Cinema website.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A Fishy Little Curio: Lucrecia Martel's PESCADOS (2010), with subtitles in English

PESCADOS / FISH by Lucrecia Martel (© 2010) from Catherine Grant on Vimeo.
PESCADOS / FISH by Lucrecia Martel (© 2010) subitled by Catherine Grant.

PLANES OF FOCUS is delighted to 'premiere' a version with English subtitles of a beguiling and funny short film that Argentine director Lucrecia Martel made for notodoFILMFEST (2010).

Pescados/Fish was written and directed by Martel, edited by María Onis, with sound, music and voices by sound artist and singer-songwriter Juana Molina.

Of course, this is an entirely fishy little curio, replete with classic, art-cinema, coy (or koi) withholding. Not everything you hear is translated in the subtitles, and any ridiculous resemblances to the storyline of La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman are very probably purely coincidental, and thus critically indefensible... But, as the clippings below indicate, the themes and staging of this hypnotic short film can't help but comically evoke the watery depths of much of Martel's earlier work.
"[In La niña santa/The Holy Girl,] Martel stresses the sensuality of close quarters, the pool, the idle hours of the siesta, and late night."
"As in La ciénaga[/The Swamp], water has a pride of place in the film’s symbology, with the splashes of the thermal pool adding one of the most indelible sound effects."
[Dominique Russell, 'Lucrecia Martel — a decidedly polyphonic cinema', Jump Cut, No. 50, spring 2008]

"There’s plenty of mordant humour in Martel’s films: the title [of La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman] is a waggish nod to B-movies; there’s a running joke about the state of Vero’s hair. But the dominant mood is dense with mystery and innuendo: why, for instance, do the women in the film keep talking about turtles in a local swimming pool?"
[Sukhdev Sandhu, 'The Headless Woman, review', The Daily Telegraph, February 18, 2010]

"I like to shoot in swimming pools, though, because it’s like a room, below the level of the ground, full of water. There are many similarities between the behavior of a body inside a swimming pool and out of the pool. Both are in an elastic space. It’s fluid. The sound outside and the waves inside the pool both touch you in the same way. I think there are a lot of similarities in perception—between being in a pool and being in the world."
['An Interview with Lucrecia Martel, director of The Headless Woman', by Chris Wisniewski, Reverse Shot, Issue 25, 2008]

"During the last Latin American Film Festival in London, during an interview with Maria Delgado, Martel accepted that the image of a fish tank was ‘quite perfect’ to characterize the particular atmosphere of her films. ‘In real life we live immersed in an elastic fluid, it might be water but also air. We usually forget that we are immersed in air’, she said."
[Cecilia Sosa, 'A Counter-narrative of Argentine Mourning: The Headless Woman (2008), directed by Lucrecia Martel', Theory, Culture & Society, December 2009 vol. 26 no. 7-8 250-262]
This new version with subtitles in English is shown here with the permission of the filmmaker. Warm thanks go to her, and to Cecilia Sosa. The original version is available online here.

Monday, 6 June 2011


Please click here for a full sized flyer.
People in my films always act as if nothing bad is happening. There is fakery all the time. My films are political in this sense: to make a film is to share the doubt about reality.
[Lucrecia Martel, interviewed by Demetrios Matheou, "Vanishing Point", Sight and Sound, 20:3, March 2010, pp. 28-32, 32 (our emphasis).]
Martel used shallow depth-of-field, or compression, in her previous films to bring her central characters, members of Argentina’s bourgeoisie, into relief against their surroundings and the huddled bodies that crowded around them. In The Headless Woman, her use of compression is even more purposeful.  It illustrates [the main character's] “separation from reality” [...]. The plane of focus remains on her because that separation is part of the subject of the film.
[Michael S. Smith, 'Lucrecia Martel's Immersive Cinema', Filmwell, July 31, 2009 (our emphasis)]

Argentine director Lucrecia Martel's first three feature-length films (La ciénaga/The Swamp [2001], La niña santa/The Holy Girl [2004], and La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman [2008]) have each made an extraordinary international impact.

Emerging from the aesthetic and discursive framework of the so-called 'New Argentine Cinema', these elliptical narratives all take the same, very local, focus, each of them located in Salta, the northern province of Argentina where Martel grew up. As well as their dark figurations of family, class, national, sexual and racial tensions, they share a caustic humour, a riveting sense of the absurd, and a rich intertextuality with other films and literary texts. 

This symposium, hosted by the Centre for Visual Fields (School of English) and the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex, will reflect on what we fervently hope is merely the first decade of Lucrecia Martel's feature-filmmaking career. The invited speakers, from the fields of Argentine and Latin American studies, social and critical theory, and film and visual studies, will explore this director's work using a number of different 'planes of focus', to correspond with some of those discernible in Martel's work: the local, the transnational, the political, the cultural, the historical, the memorial, the hauntological, the affective, the sexual, the real, the aesthetic and the intertextual. 

The symposium is free to attend but please email Catherine Grant to register your intention to come along. 

All sessions will take place  in ARTS B 274, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK (link opens Google Maps). Directions to the university may be found here.
Symposium Schedule

12.45-2.30: SESSION 1
  • Joanna Page, 'Martel's Fabulations' 
  • Dolores Tierney, 'On transnational aesthetics and Martel's films'
  • Debbie Martin,  ''Wholly ambivalent demon-girl: horror, the uncanny and the representation of feminine adolescence in Lucrecia Martel's La niña santa/The Holy Girl'
2.30-3.30pm: SESSION 2
  • Maria M. Delgado, 'La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman: silence, historical memory and metaphor'
  • Cecilia Sosa, 'The Headless Woman (2008): A counter narrative of mourning in 13 acts (and a queer dog)'
3.30-4pm COFFEE BREAK, including the first ever English-subtitled screening of Pescados/Fish (Lucrecia Martel, 2010: 4'19"), shown with the permission of the filmmaker. 
4.00-5.00pm: SESSION 3 
  • Catherine Grant, 'The Haunting of The Headless Woman'
  • Jens Andermann, 'Accidents and Miracles: subjectivity and politics in Martel's films'
5.00-6.00pm: SESSION 4 Responses/discussion

Information about the speakers:

  • Catherine Grant is Senior Lecturer (part time) in Film Studies in the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex. She has published on Latin American and French cinema and culture, theories and transnational practices of film and cultural authorship, and feminist and queer film theories. She co-edited Screening World Cinema with Annette Kuhn (Routledge, 2006). In 2008, she created Film Studies For Free, a widely-read, online portal-archive of multimedia, scholarly resources. She is researching by practice the potential for internet-based, videographic film studies. 

This Symposium has been organised by Catherine Grant, John David Rhodes, Dolores Tierney, Rosalind Galt and Michael Lawrence.

    Wednesday, 11 May 2011