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HBO presents
The Holy Girl (2004)

"I feel the same. It's madness."
- Helena (Mercedez Morgan)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: February 24, 2006

Stars: Maria Alche, Julieta Zylberberg, Monica Villa, Marta Lubos
Other Stars: Arturo Goetz, Alejo Mango, Mia Maestro
Director: Lucrecia Martel

MPAA Rating: R for (some sexual content and brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:44m:08s
Release Date: September 06, 2005
UPC: 026359275425
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C-B+C+ C+

DVD Review

The classic tale of Lolita has been told many times and in many different ways. Vladimir Nabokov's story has also spawned many imitators, some of which are quite good, handling the rough subject of an older man and a young girl with great care and dignity. However, most of these projects about this form of pedophilia are tasteless and exploitative. Writer/director Lucrecia Martel's (La Ciénaga) The Holy Girl is the latest project to channel Nabokov, and, despite its shortcomings, it manages to keep its head high.

Amalia (Maria Alche) is a 15-year-old Catholic who lives in the Argentine Hotel Termas, which her mother Helena (Mercedez Morgan) owns, and is currently hosting a medial convention. One day, as Amalia watches a musician in a shop window, she is touched by a middle-aged doctor, Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso). Helena and the doctor immediately grow close, but Amalia pines for him. When Amalia's infatuation gets out of hand, Dr. Jano's place in the convention and his entire career could be at stake if this young girl goes to her mother with what has happened.

The Holy Girl is a decent piece of Argentinian cinema, but even with such a controversial and interesting premise, it just never seems to get comfortable. This is a film that generates practically nothing in the way of post-viewing discussion, and will have even the most avid art-house moviegoer struggling to get involved. Martel might have been better off more directly channeling Pedro Almodóvar (who serves as executive producer), who excels at overshadowing weak stories with unique visual styles and imagery. Such a distinct look here wouldn't have made it a masterpiece, but it might have made it far more interesting.

I couldn't believe it, but after an hour in, I was actually hoping the film would be more exploitative and controversial than it is. Not hoping to push the envelope as far as pedophilia goes, but something more to stir things up and actually have something interesting happen on screen. Instead, there's basically a whole lot of talk about nothing, with most of the characters not truly drawing us in.

Still, it's hard to knock the performances that this fine cast offers up. Maria Alche looks like a younger version of Asia Argento (Land of the Dead), with her devilish smirk and innocent gaze, handling her version of Lolita with a great deal of grace and charm that is well beyond her age. Mercedez Morgan is equally interesting as Helena, a woman who appears to have been around the block herself, but is far too naïve to realize what is happening right under her nose. The only real acting misstep is by Carlos Belloso, who is never sympathetic or creepy enough to make Dr. Jano the dynamic character he should be.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is the highlight of the disc. The rich, textured colors, blended with excellent image detail result in a wonderful overall look. Fleshtones are very realistic and true, while blacks and shadow levels are handled almost perfectly. There is quite a bit of grain during the interior scenes, but it's never too distracting, nor does it make it difficult to determine what's happening on the screen.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The only audio track is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, and it doesn't have much to do given the rather subdued nature of the film's soundtrack. The Holy Girl is dialogue-heavy, so it's not too disappointing that everything stays up front for the most part. It is nice that the dialogue is always crisp and clear, and any hissing or other distortion is non-existent.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extra is The Making of The Holy Girl featurette, which runs 22 minutes. This piece mixes in cast and crew interviews, as well as on-set footage to give us a nice feel for exactly what went into the production of the film.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

If you're looking for a modern-day Lolita that matches the quality of previous, similar films, The Holy Girl won't end your quest. A few impressive performances can't save this uninvolving project that's making its DVD debut courtesy of HBO Home Video. The disc itself isn't bad, with above average audio and video, and an interesting mini-documentary among its merits.


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