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July 22, 2013

Vanishing Waves

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Kristina Buozyte - 2012
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD

There is a scene in Vanishing Waves that serves as a metaphor for the film. The two main characters, Lukas and Aurora, are sitting opposite each other at a beautifully arranged table, with what appears to be a specially prepared epicurean feast. At first the two eat proper bites. This is soon followed by gorging, as well as spitting out food, splashing liquids on each other, as well as passing food to each other mouth to mouth. I'm not the only one to comment on how this film is reminiscent of the films from the late Sixties or early Seventies. The effect is not exactly a blend as much as a not fully digested mix of influences. It's a mix that I like.

Lukas is a young scientist who acts as a human guinea pig, enlisted to receive the brain waves of the comatose accident victim, Aurora. Admonished act only as an observer, Lukas and Aurora act out a tragic romance in the virtually reality of Aurora's mind. Lukas not only falls in love with this imagined Aurora, but also believes he can bring her back to consciousness.

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While Lithuanian filmmaker Kristina Buozyte may mention Antonioni as an influence, I felt connections to other films, some that Buozyte and collaborator Bruno Samper might not have even seen. While I assume the two have some familiarity with Alain Resnais' early films, I kept on thinking about the lesser known Je t'aime, Je t'aime. That 1968 film was centered on a scientific experiment with a man returning to his memories of a woman he loved. While the virtual reality in Buoyzte's film is generally in chronological order, the two films are meditations on love, loss and memory within a science fiction framework. In both films, the male protagonist knowingly puts his life in danger for an idealized love. The first glimpses of Aurora''s world combined some of the abstract computer animation of pioneer John Whitney with a dash of the hypnogogic visions of Stan Brakhage. There is also an orgy where flesh becomes more plastic, the kind of image found in something by David Cronenberg. There are also the scene of two people, maybe the only to people in the world, or at least isolated from others, as in Ingmar Bergman's Persona. Am I seeing something that isn't necessarily there or unintended? Could be. I'm fine with that.

I think the response of festival viewers to Vanishing Waves is that it is a reminder of a time when even mainstream films allowed for some degree of experimentation, and when the designation of "art movie" really meant something.

The two disc set here also comes with Buozyte's first feature, The Collectress, also written with Samper. What really distinguishes Buozyte here is that she is unafraid to make a film centered on an unlikeable woman. Made in 2008 for her Master's degree, the film is about a children's speech therapist, Gaile, who stages herself in filmed activities that are deliberately alienating herself from friends and family. With some of the recent chatter about female filmmakers, what they are doing, and what some critics thinks they should doing, this set is another reminder of why some of the most interesting work in film is done outside of Hollywood. Just how fearless is Kristina Buozyte? I'll only say that there is one scene with a dog in The Collectress that might have made W. C. Fields wince.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 22, 2013 07:30 AM