Rio Grind Film Festival gets fleshed out

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      With films like Manborg and Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman on the schedule, you’ll easily get your fill of gratuitous sex, horror, and violence at this weekend’s (November 2 to 4) Rio Grind Film Festival. And then, on closing night, you’ll get a massive dose of gratuitous art. Or, art mingled gratuitously with sex, if you like.

      Getting its western Canadian premiere on Sunday night (November 4), Vanishing Waves is a ravishing science-fiction thriller from Lithuania that recently took the best picture, director, screenplay, and actress awards at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. And those people definitely know an artsploitation classic when they see one.

      “As far as I can tell, Vanishing Waves is the most acclaimed film by a female filmmaker—or anyone, period—of 2012,” festival director Rachel Fox told the Straight. “And we’ve got it. So this is a big deal.” Fancy critical approval aside, genre fans are grooving on the film’s seamless mix of the cerebral and the pulpy, not to mention sideways erotic content like a stunningly designed orgy sequence in which bodies appear to cohere into a pyre of human flesh.

      In a call from Vilnius, Lithuania, director Kristina Buozyte tells the Straight that she initially set out to make a relationship film inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni. Instead, she and cowriter Bruno Samper cooked up the tale of a research facility attempting to transmit the thoughts of a comatose woman into the mind of another human. The film’s austere production design and hardware are redolent of superior genre flicks from the ’70s and ’80s (making the film a nice companion piece to Beyond the Black Rainbow), but the science is actually real.

      “We went to neurologists, to scientists; I was communicating in Lithuania with neurobiologists, and I also went to France, to a research centre, where they work with how to visualize brain activity,” she says. “For us, it was extremely important that the scientific part would be as realistic as possible.”

      What happens once Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) dons the electrode wig and immerses himself in the isolation tank is another thing, of course. Buozyte and Samper have created a strange, unpredictable, psychedelic romance in which Lukas moves freely within the psyche of the sender, Aurora (Jurga Jutaite). Gradually, this dip into the primordial soup seems to ignite the lizard part of his brain while the couple is, meanwhile, pursued inside their dreamscape by… What? An ex-lover? A Jungian archetype? Leonardo DiCaprio?

      Actually, in contrast to Hollywood’s bloated handling of similar material, Vanishing Waves strives for a more ambiguous, often irrational, poetic truth. “We try to leave open space for the audience to think,” Buozyte says, adding that she’s perfectly happy to see her thoughtful (if mind-fucking) work playing alongside crowd pleasers like the Japanese foodsploitation gore epic Dead Sushi.

      “I think the more people manage to see the movie, the better it is!” she states. If Vancouver can get its mojo together for the Rio’s inaugural salute to the best in fringe filmmaking—and the signs so far are good—there shouldn’t be an empty seat (or mind) in the house.

      The Rio Grind Film Festival takes place at the Rio Theatre, Friday to Sunday (November 2 to 4).