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The Auteurs Daily: Venice and Toronto. Lourdes


The Auteurs Daily


"At four days in," writes Shane Danielsen in an indieWIRE dispatch from Venice, "by far the strongest entry is Jessica Hausner's Lourdes, a sly, elliptical take on faith and redemption, set in the titular site of pilgrimage in the Pyrenees." The "dark, sardonic wit" here has reminded an acquaintance "of the novels of Muriel Spark, a comparison that seems especially apt given that the narrative boasts a novelistic sense of detail and incident, a clear sense of other lives, other crises of love and faith, occurring around the fringes of the story; one might also invoke another, equally elusive study of contemporary Catholicism, Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl.... It also has that rarest of qualities: a perfect final scene. Acclaimed at its public premiere, it has to be considered a serious contender for an award."

"A fine film on any terms, it's also that rarest of beasts: a religious-themed story that should draw empathy from viewers on either side of the spiritual divide," writes Guy Lodge at In Contention. "With the Germans having claimed The White Ribbon for themselves, Austria would do well to submit this gem to the Academy."

"After Hotel and Lovely Rita, Hausner certainly confirms herself here as an original voice," Fionnuala Halligan in Screen. "Ultimately, the obvious questions - what is a miracle? Why him and not me? - are tackled unexpectedly with all Hausner's characters performing an intricate dance."

"It is irrelevant whether Christine [Sylvie Testud] is cured or whether this is merely an improvement in her condition before a relapse, as the doctors on the miracle committee conclude," writes Camillo de Marco at Cineuropa. "Hausner is interested in showing the ambiguity and cruelty of this phenomenon, without engaging in iconoclastic provocations. She commented at the Venice Film Festival: 'For me, this film has been a journey of research, at the end of which I've discovered that if there is a God, he's unfair.'"

"Either a subtly subversive black comedy, a deeply spiritual portrait of physical rebirth or a whole lot of nothing in a self-consciously arty package, Lourdes isn't about to reveal its true colors anytime soon." Not to Variety's Derek Elley, at any rate.

Film-Zeit's been gathering reviews in the German-language press.

Update, 9/8: Lee Marshall in the Evening Standard: "Hausner walks a tightrope between hope and realism, between medicine and the Madonna - and the result is an austere, measured, sceptical, sensitive film that lingers in the mind for days as we attempt to tease out its very human complexities."

Update, 9/22: "Composed with an eye for telling gesture within crowded frames and anchored by Testud's emotional purity, it's a modest but trenchant investigation of the spiritual," finds Fernando F Croce at Slant.

Update, 9/24: "As good as Testud is (as well as Eline Löwensohn, who plays a cancer-stricken nurse)," blogs LA Weekly's Scott Foundas, "the true star of the film is the town of Lourdes itself - an unapologetically (or maybe just obliviously) tawdry Disneyland of religion which Hausner films with an anthropological fascination, from its neon-accented Virgin Marys to its 'Pilgrim of the Year' awards."

Update, 10/2: "I seriously considered not reviewing Lourdes," concedes Mike D'Angelo at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, "because I knew that any attempt would involve far more flailing than analysis. At the same time, however, this movie is so clearly accomplished and consistently intriguing that I want to call it to your attention, perhaps even quasi-recommend it. The curious and adventurous reader shouldn't be penalized just because I can't (yet) work out what writer-director Jessica Hausner means for us to take away from her unusual disquisition on the nature of miracles."

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.


Wow. Reading some of the reviews linked to from this dispatch has already (with ease) placed this film high on my must-see list for the coming months. Jessica Hausner is a complete unknown to me, but Lourdes surely sounds like a fine film.

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