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La Cienaga


The release of Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga heralded the arrival of an astonishingly vital and original voice in Argentine cinema. With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, beautiful cinematography, and a highly sophisticated use of on- and offscreen sound, Martel turns her tale of a dissolute bourgeois extended family, whiling away the hours of one sweaty, sticky summer, into a cinematic marvel.
Mecha (Graciela Borges) and her family are nearing the end of their summer holiday when her cousin Tali and her family are forced to come and live with them. In the stifling heat of the Argentine summer, the two families aimlessly amuse themselves with liquor, kinky crushes, swimming in a filthy swimming pool, hunting and watching TV. No one ever seems to go anywhere; parents and kids lay in bed, half-naked in communal sloth, but there are powerful undercurrents running beneath the seemingly languid country-house atmosphere. One of the great contemporary film debuts (Martel would go on to direct such celebrated films as The Holy Girl, The Headless Woman and Zama), La Ciénaga is a mesmerizing portrait—reminiscent of Buñuel—of the privileged class far gone in decay, unanchored from religion, nature, marital or blood ties. (Dir. by Lucrecia Martel, 2001, Argentina, in Spanish with English subtitles, 103 mins., Not Rated)

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