La Ciénaga (12A)
Time Out saysMartel's debut is remarkable, a (presumably autobiographical?) slice of life focusing on the households of middle-aged cousins, the kind and sensible Tali (Morán) and the more neurotic and self-centred Mecha (Borges), over the course of a torpid late Argentinian summer. Mostly it's based in and around Mecha's country house. The swimming pool is green and putrid. The electricity keeps cutting out. The phone rings and rings, and no matter how many times you tell them the Indians won't answer it. Cut across the breast after a drunken accident with a tray of glasses, Mecha sticks to her bed, drinks iced wine and vegetates, while her adolescent children negotiate their own tribulations. Although one plot rivulet does involve a cow stuck up to its nostrils in a swamp, the title points to a more general stasis: an inertia and redundancy which creeps up on Mecha and threatens to suffocate her in a quiescent alcoholic haze. Martel's densely layered soundtrack is even more impressive than her distinctive, confident visuals: the scrape of a pool chair against the concrete is enough to set your teeth on edge. It's not that the film lacks compassion, but that Martel's outlook is singularly bleak.