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Lourdes

a film by Jessica Hausner

One can believe in miracles, take leaps of faith, ask for divine guidance. Some say one can even transcend this world for another using only their own power of suggestion. One needs many of these attributes, and/or belief in such to fully comprehend Austrian director Jessica Hausner's latest film (this time done in French), the spiritually deceptive pilgrimage movie Lourdes. Starring the always slightly off (and I mean that in the most complimentary way) Sylvie Testud as a quadriplegic making the trek to the titular Lourdes in the south of France to hope for a cure amongst the religious hotspot that is Lourdes, Hausner frames her film, with its lingering takes and breathy cinematic stares, as if it too were on a religious quest.

And this extremely Bressonian film gives us that aforementioned miracle in the body of Testud's quadriplegic waking up one day on her pilgrimage and walking. The fact that this sudden miracle is taken as such by the other pilgrims says something of the mentality of Hausner's film. There is backbiting of sorts as well, with the Greek chorus-esque sidebars questioning why her and not others on the pilgrimage, but even such talk never questions how this sudden miracle happened, only why it happened to her, the girl who flirts with her caretakers. From the opening shot, which is nothing more than a static camera watching from above (as God?) as the pilgrims shuffle into a cafeteria, but plays like sublime voyeurism, to the final shot of Testud's faraway gaze stuck forever in cinematic perpetuality, Lourdes, in its sublime subtlety, may be just the leap of faith a devoted cinephile deserves. [01/06/11]

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