For the love of a ‘Headless Woman’

Last night one of my dearest friends, who has always seemed to me generally cultured though not quite as cinephilic as yours truly (I hope no one is), sent me a trailer he’d seen recently on Apple’s website for a film with a more-than-slightly enigmatic title; the film was Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s latest, La mujer sin cabeza (English: The Headless Woman). For my friend, the experience of watching the trailer generated a brief yet intense chain of “what the fuck” moments; for me, the biggest “what the fuck” moment of all comes when one wonders why local film exhibitors aren’t going out of their way to bring The Headless Woman to Madison.

Earlier this summer I interned at Manhattan’s Film Forum, which is currently running The Headless Woman from now until September 1st. Of all the films that Film Forum rolled out this summer, so many of which were terrific (and, for me, free to attend), the one which I’d wanted to see most was The Headless Woman. The film has been described by critics as the aesthetic equivalent of enduring a rather severe concussion, that is to say, it alters your perception of the world in remarkable and seemingly permanent ways; as Martel herself tells Chris Wisniewski in this interview from Reverse Shot,

There is a beautiful and at the same time horrifying mechanism in society: if you want to protect someone, you can disown his or her responsibility across his or her class. This sounds really beautiful, but it only works for some layers of society. The film reveals a blurred moment of a woman’s life, and shows how things become more secure by making certain things disappear. Like my other films, The Headless Woman doesn’t end in the moment that the lights go up, it ends one or two days later.

A couple years ago I seem to recall that the UW Cinematheque ran a series of recent films directed by Argentinean women, and I’m fairly sure (but don’t quote me on this) that some of Martel’s previous work was included. Based on the critical reception that The Headless Woman has been getting thus far, the film seems to be a significant step in the never-ending revolution that is cinematic modernism. Again, I’ll admit to my own ignorance as far as the politics of film distribution is concerned, but nevertheless: We need this film in Madison within the next 6 months, while the window of opportunity is still glaringly open. Would the MMoCA, the Cinematheque, Sundance or whoever have passed on the chance to show Antonioni’s L’avventura or Bergman’s Persona during those films’ initial American runs?

In so many ways, Madison is on the verge of having an irrefutably awesome film scene, and if local exhibitors were to go the extra distance to get their hands on films like The Headless Woman, it could be precisely what it takes to shove our dear town off the proverbial ledge. Someone, anyone: Make this happen.


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