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The Holy Girl

(La niña santa)
Argentina 2004. Dir: Lucrecia Martel. 106 min. 35mm

“Elusive, feverish, and altogether amazing ... A film that defies categorization, but I'm tempted to call it a miracle.”
A.O. SCOTT, NEW YORK TIMES

35mm PRINT! Lucrecia Martel, doyenne of the New Argentine Cinema, delivered on the sizable promise of her debut La Ciénaga with this strange and sensual sophomore effort about a teenage girl’s mission to deliver a man from sin. Amalia (María Alché) is a 16-year-old Catholic student living with her mother, a lonely divorcee (Mercedes Morán), in the dilapidated family-owned hotel they run in small-town Salta. While attending a medical conference held at the inn, a visiting doctor molests Amalia on a crowded street corner, setting in motion a troubling bid for his salvation by the spiritually devout, sexually awakened “holy girl.” Rendered in allusive tones, the crumbling setting becomes less a tangible space than an abstract site of whispered prayer, carnal temptation, and middle-class moral malaise. The intimacies fostered by Martel’s formal ingenuity — a brilliant use of peripheral sound, in particular — feel revelatory in their visceral impact.


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REVIEWS

"An artist of enormous promise ... Martel creates a world that’s seemingly hermetic but strangely familiar, where ‘good’ and ‘evil’, fear and desire, innocence and experience become, both literally and metaphorically, questions of perspective."

Time Out | full review

"A very intelligent movie marked by candor and compassion."

Chicago Tribune | full review