Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 7:03 am 
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RETA GRINEVIČIŪTĖ, KESTUTIS CICENAS IN SLOW

Asexual affair

Slow is an assured and original new Lithuanian film about an earthy contemporary dance teacher, Elena (Greta Grinevičiūtė), whose sudden affair with Dovydas (Kestutis Cicenas), her interpreter for a new group of young deaf students who come to her, is complicated by his being asexual. He declares this to her right away because he senses that he has strong feelings for her. And she develops them for him. A novel premise-- and yet another film that provides instruction to the mainstream audience about a newly revealed minority. Asexuality accounts for about 1% of the population: see Google; Elena does.

What is asexual? Do they still have sex? Maybe they're rather not, but have to. It's a spectrum, and this varies. The opener is a flash-forward to a passionate kiss, so Elena is very much a physical being. Unlike the classical ballerina, starved to perfection and with swan neck and tight updo, Elena is on the zoftig side, free and a little rough in her movements. As Elena and Dovydas, the actors improvise warmly and playfully from their first connection, and their scenes are unusually rich in explorations of intimacy, reminding us that sexual isn't loving or caring or tender or romantic, and certainly doesn't mean faithful.

Dovydas depicts himself as a slacker: "I'm just a big lazy bum." Not good at anything he took on this profession because he had a deaf brother and learned signing to communicate with him. Another would-be boyfriend of Elenas calls him cool. He is tall and thin, with close cropped hair and close cropped beard and a humorous, faraway look and a penchant for silly jokes. But he proves to be troubled. He has never felt love like this. He can do sex, but it doesn't come naturally, is awkward; maybe better not to try. Once Elena discovers he has masturbated, and she feels betrayed. He is constantly afraid she will leave him. It's complicated. (See [url="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asexuality"]Wikipedia[/url], "Asexuality." Slow won't explain much to you. It just gives you a situation that's real and confusing. Uncharted territory for us, and for them.

Elena has a childhood friend, Viktorija (Laima Akstinaite) who had a vocation early and is a nun. She, Elena, wears a tattoo of a cross on her ankle to commemorate her friend's dedication, which she dares to show her now. Viktorija likes it. Does Viktorija represent Dovydas, or Elena, or just sisterhood?

There is great physical warmth between Elena and Dovydas, but there is always the mystery and sense of unknown territory between them: the war between men and women, but with parts of the equation missing, unknowns unsolved. And yet the filmmaker, Marija Kavtaradze, keeps things always physical and down to earth, like Elena. The use of 16mm for the images contributes to the warmth. And Dovydas doesn't shirk the physical, obviously. But he loves and loves without being turned on - in that way.

The first forty minutes of Slow are fresh and interesting. But things meander after that. Sometimes the dance segments feel a little like place-holders, perhaps, though their physicality and wordlessness is an objective correlative for Elena and Dovydas. As for them, is this the chronicle of a passionate, unusual affair, or the prelude to a lifetime relationship. It's a beauty of the film that we don't know which. There are interludes of songs about love with the camera focused on Dovydas expressing the lyrics in sign language, a thought-provoking image of the gaps that must be crossed in this romance. Even beautiful relationships aren't perfect. Inevitably, there is no resolution and the film ends ambiguously. This sophomore effort by writer-director Marija Kavtaradze, which shows considerable assurance and originality, approaches intimacy and romance in a fresh way and may earn repeated viewings.

Slow, original title Tu man nieko neprimeni ("You don't remind me of anything"), 108 mins., debuted at Sundance January 21, 2023 when it won the World Cinema Directing Award; it had its European premiere at Karlovy Vary and was included in close to two dozen other international film festivals. It opens May 3, 2024 at IFC Center in New York and May 10 at Laemmle Royal in L.A. and the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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