Thanks to Fortunato Trione and Larry Syder for comments on drafts of this article, and to Julia Lesage for an insightful and inspiring critique. Thanks as well to Gustavo Constantini for providing insights into Martel’s working methods.

1. The essay's title phrase is borrowed from Michel Chion’s Audio-Vision. [return to page 1 of essay]

2. Jonathan Romney quips: “La Niña Santa […] appears at first to deal in familiar, even overworked art- film territory: sexual awakening, religious fervour and the uneasy tensions between a young girl and a much older man (a theme that has pretty much kept French cinema bankable over the last three decades.)”

3. I hesitate here between the present and past tense, for while the beginning of the phenomenon can be identified in Historias Breves (1995), there is some discussion as to whether it has already ended.

4. There are over 12,000 film students in Argentina today, the biggest concentration of film students in the world.

5. For a fuller discussion of the resurgence, see Diego Batlle “From Virtual Death to the New Law.”

6. Daniel Burman frames it a little differently: With the advent of new cinema schools, the "sons of the bourgeois middle class realized that we would prefer not to continue studying law or becoming doctors. Instead, we could go to cinema school and find girls."

7. “propone nuevos interrogantes”

8. Ana Amado’s assessment may be more accurate:
Coincidente con el cambio de siglo, el nuevo cine argentino vive una pequeña aurora que tiene resonancia internacional gracias a los festivales y a una producción creciente que suma realizadores y títulos en una generosa lista de recién llegados y de cada vez menos desconocidos, junto a nuevos y antiguos productores. Estos elementos reunidos hacen hoy la figura de un (modesto) fenómeno, aunque del otro lado del espejo acumula paradojas, ya que tal auge es simultáneo con la decadencia de la industria fílmica en sentido tradicional y con la crisis económica, social e institucional más aguda que se recuerden en el país.
[Coinciding with the change of century, the New Argentine Cinema is experiencing a small aurora with international resonance thanks to festivals and an increase in production that adds filmmakers and titles to a generous list of new arrivals and not-so unknowns, along with new and old producers. These elements together today create the figure of a (modest) phenomenon, although on the other side of the mirror paradoxes accumulate, since this rise is simultaneous with the decadence of the film industry in the traditional sense and with an economic, social and institutional crisis that is the most acute the country has ever seen.]

9. The emphasis on sound could be added to Leila Gómez’s cataloguing of the “visibility of the marginal,” which includes the focus on female adolescence, domesticity, the Northeast of Argentina, hardly seen in the Buenos Aires-centric national cinema, and Argentina itself, home of ‘third cinema.’ I take issue, however, with Gómez’s characterization of Martel’s style as “traditional,” which allows her to dispense with any analysis of form. She also ignores the particularity of Martel’s narratives.

10. Not accidentally, “mandragora” is a soporific.

11. There is much more to be written on melodrama and the New Argentine Cinema and Martel in particular. Some points to be explored include the understanding of social change in “private contexts and emotional terms” (Elsaesser, 47), the focus on victims, the emphasis on the maternal and paternal in a “feminised” culture. Martel’s men are also feminized, trying to find (and keep) their place in the domestic world. As in melodrama, but more overtly perhaps, “feminine desire is actively aimed at [these] passive, eroticized male” (Modleski, 332).[return to page 2]

12. A strict definition of melodrama is “a dramatic narrative in which musical accompaniment marks the emotional effects” (Elsaesser, 50).

13. “Martel has a flair for the symbolic, too, especially obvious in the case of water. It is ever-present in the air, for instance, as an oppressive humidity; frozen into ice to be secured from the maid or the bedside freezer; drawn in the bathroom, where José and Veronica shower incestuously; drained from the horrifyingly fetid swimming pool, and refilled; or in its alcoholic form, a potion for the middle-aged and elixir for the young, sip after sip of danger and relief” (Ruby Rich).

14. The term is Chion’s. The definition at filmsound.org is taken from Audio-vision: “Anempathetic sound —usually diegetic music—that seems to exhibit conspicuous indifference to what is going on in the film's plot, creating a strong sense of the tragic. For example, a radio continues to play a happy tune even as the character who first turned it on has died. Anempathetic effects can occur with sound effects —in a very violent scene after the death of a character some sonic process continues like the noise of a machine, the hum of a fan, a shower running as if nothing had happened.”

15. In the presentation at the School for Sound, Martel describes sound as a means of making “physical contact with the spectator.”

16. Latin American productions tend not to credit the tasks of sound design individually. Hence, for example, the entire sound team for La ciénaga —Hervé Guyader, Emmanuel Croset, Guido Berenblum, Adrián De Michele— won the award for best sound at the 2001 Havana Film Festival.

17. Her cinematographer here is Hugo Colace, who won the Argentine Film Critics Association Award for his work.

18. I doubt, however, that Thom had Martel’s extreme withholding in mind.

19. For a discussion of the relationship between touch and sound, see Connor 154-158.

20. Monteagudo notes something similar in La niña santa:

"es también, sobre todo, un film de sonidos: de susurros, de rezos, de diminutivos, de chicharras, de zumbidos, de acoples, de interferencias. Son expresiones quizá de un mundo librado a su propio, misterioso orden. [it is also a film of sounds; of whispers, prayers, diminutives, cicadas, buzzings, howlings, interferences. They are expressions perhaps of a world left to its own mysterious order.]"


21. Gonzalo Aguilar points out that:

“las escenas de fiesta o de los bailes les permitieron a los nuevos directores no sólo mostrar un estado de lo cuerpos, de los gustos […] sino también los conflictos entre diversos sectores y clases socials” [“the dance or party scenes allow the new directors [of the New Argentine Cinema] not only to show the state of bodies, of taste […] but also conflicts between different sectors and social classes”] (52).

22. I use the term also because the scene in a sense encapsulates the relationships developed in the film.

23. Martel’s compatriot, Julio Cortázar creates a similar juxtaposition in “Casa tomada” (“House Taken Over.”)[return to page 3]

24. As a result of technological changes, Martel’s soundtrack is far more complex than Bresson’s. As Walter Murch notes: “Sixty years ago […] it would not be unusual for an entire film to need only fifteen to twenty sound effects. Today that number could be hundreds to thousands of times greater”

25. Michel Chion refers to a similar phenomenon as ‘frontal voice’ and ‘back voice:’

“A sound’s high frequencies usually travel in a more directional manner than the low; and when someone speaks to us with his back turned we perceive fewer of the voice’s high harmonics and find the voice less present” (Audio-Vision 92).

26. Claudia Gorbman comments that

“song lyrics threaten to offset the aesthetic balance between music and narrative cinematic representation. The common solution taken by the standard feature film is not to declare songs off limits—for they can give pleasure of their own—but to defer significant action and dialogue during their performance” (20).

27. Falicov notes,

“Most films set in other regions of Argentina typically are directed by porteños (residents of Buenos Aires), rather than the locals themselves. Thus the ‘porteño gaze’ leaves an indelible mark on films set in the north, south or interior of the country. These films are narrated from the point of view of a protagonist outsider (usually a porteño)” (123).

28. Argentine cultural representations tend to emphasize closeness to Europe, and distances itself from its continental neighbours.

29. I’m using the term here as “over-emphatically stated, over-hyped, and exaggerated […] both in loudness and in intimacy.” This isn’t so unusual, as the definition from filmsound.org quoted above suggests. Martel’s use of it, especially the orchestration of many hyper-real sounds, is.

30. It is in this sense, perhaps, that Gabriela Halac refers to Martel’s realism as “dislocado” [“dislocated”].

31. The mise en scène emphasizes this “timelessness” with a mix of periods in the furniture and décor.

32. Astute spectators will recognize the name from the rhyme the girls recite in from of the fan in La Ciénaga:

“Doctor Jano, cirujano/hoy tenemos que operar/en la sala de emergencias/a una chica de su edad/Ella tiene veintiún años/Usted tiene un año más/Doctor Jano, cirujano/No se vaya a enamorar."
[“Dr. Jano, surgeon/today we have to operate/in the emergency room/on a girl your age/She’s twenty one/you’re a year older/Dr. Jano, surgeon/Don’t go falling in love.”]

Martel claims the rhyme was the starting point of her second film. See Diego Lerer “Lobo suelto, cordero atado”

33. In the “Making of” video, her cinematographer, Felix Monti, describes lighting the set so that no shadows could be seen and the camera could be placed anywhere.

34. See Aguilar 100-103 for further discussion of what he calls “una acusmática de la creencia” [“an acousmatic of belief.”] [return to page 4]

35. In his first glimpse of her, she is stretching onto her toes as if on a diving board.

36. Liz Braun coins the term.

37. The expression is David Bordwell’s.

38. “An enigmatic, unlocatable sound remains deeply troubling until sound is synched with source and brought into the realm of the eye” (Hammer).

39. It is not surprising that Martel is reported to be to at work on a horror film. Her interest in sound and in the creation of unrelenting tension seems to lead in that direction.

40. Point of audition sound, or subjective sound, as Stilwell points out, “puts us in the subject position of a character who has lost or is losing control” (174).

41. The excerpt is from Raúl de la Torre’s Heroína (1972), a brief homage to the director of Argentine “woman’s films” in the seventies, and Graciela Borges, who starred in them (Aguilar, 101).

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