Ciénaga, La

Director: Lucrecia Martel
Year Released: 2001
Rating: 2.5

An intimate (maybe too much so) portrait of a "bourgeois" family in Argentina: drunk matriarch Mecha (Graciela Borges) accidentally gets cut with broken glass (and has to go to the hospital), her son José (Juan Cruz Bordeu) comes to visit, a little boy cuts his leg, another kid needs to lose an eye (yikes!), and it's so hot out everyone just lays around on beds, doing nothing but watching television.  This is pretty self-assured filmmaking for a feature debut (Martel was in her mid-30's): a fleshy, sweaty movie that not only looks but actually feels like it's in a state of ruin (the title translates to "The Swamp").  But as a novice director, I also feel she relies too heavily on individual symbolic elements stacked right up against each other in the hopes that the audience will "tie them together," making more out of it than what it really is: there's a turtle on the patio, a dead rabbit on the kitchen counter, a dying cow in a pit, the Virgin Mary appearing to certain people, etc.  Is she secretly reveling in the fact that "old money" is crumbling apart (the opening scene, after all, is them literally rearranging deck chairs)?  Probably ... but so is everyone else.