Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Alanté Kavaïté's THE SUMMER OF SANGAILE: Lithuania's entry into this year's Oscar sweeps

TrustMovies can't quite imagine what some of the older members of the Academy will make of the hot lesbian love scenes in THE SUM-MER OF SANGAILE, the official Lithuanian entry into the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film contention. Whatever reaction those scenes produce, I can't help but think that members will be greatly impressed with the cinematic beauty and quiet, tender artfulness of this unusual movie. Its plot may be a mere wisp, involving the coming-of-age of its fragile heroine, yet the film's visuals -- beginning to end -- prove stunning.

That the film, written and directed by Alanté Kavaïté (shown at right), won the Sundance Film festival award for directing (world cinema -- dramatic) should give some indication of how surprising those visuals are. Beginning with our heroine, Sangaile (the lovely Julija Steponaityte, below), entranced by the amazing-if-frightening work of a local stunt pilot during his air show, the film almost immediately cuts to our other protagonist, Auste (Aiste Dirziute), also a looker but one whose true beauty emerges more slowly as the film progresses.

Auste (below), hugely attracted to Sangaile, sets about meeting and seducing the slightly younger girl, and she make no bones about any of this. A bright, creative young woman, gifted in fashion and photography (both the clothes and the photographs seen here are good enough to turn the heads of titans in both industries), Auste uses these skills to draw Sangaile -- who early on in the film has a clearly unsatisfying sexual encounter with a young man from Auste's group -- close, closer, then whew!

All the while, Ms Kavaïté's concern for the environment in which these girls exist -- the incredibly verdant countryside, the spacious sky, the local lake, the very different homes in which the two girls live -- into which come the almost profound art that Auste produces with the visual help of Sangaile combine to create a memorable fragment of a movie. (The outstanding cinematography is by Dominique Colin.)

Sangaile has health problems -- diabetes, perhaps, and vertigo that keeps her from pursuing her dream of flying -- and she also has a somewhat distant mother, a former ballerina who appears to have had some trouble honing her parenting skills.

For her part, Auste seems surprisingly competent as both an artist and autonomous person. She "manages" the relationship as best she can, while helping Sangaile toward her own autonomy. The movie, however, is finally more a visual feast than any deep exploration of character or relationship.

But as that, The Summer of Sangaile is well worth seeing as it gently yet luxuriously probes the place of family, friendship, sexuality, creativity and challenge in the lives of the young.

From Strand Releasing, in Lithuanian with English subtitles and running 97 minutes, this Lithuania/France/Netherlands co-production opens in New York City at the IFC Center this Friday, November 20, and in Los Angeles at the Sundance Sunset Cinema on December 4.

No comments: