To her two older sisters, she’s a slut and a bitch. To us, she’s the adorable teen dreamer Slitch. She’s also the heart and soul of this delicately beautiful short film by writer/director Diane Bellino. “Slitch”, which was shot in only 10 days in Rhode Island, plays like an ordinary summer day in an ordinary girl’s otherwise ordinary life. Yet somehow the extraordinary is mined in the ordinary as young Slitch makes love in the grass, endures her two “evil” stepsisters, dreams of guys, flirts with a stoner surfer, and goes night swimming when all else fails. Beyond that, nothing much really happens in this modern approximation of a classic fairy tale, which is fine by me. “Slitch” is about those subtle, random memories and feelings we stir up when remember our youth. It has little interest in either characterization or plot and so in the end, Slitch, the girl, remains little more than an impression. The dream however, burns with a vivid intensity.
Like the emerging work of Sofia Coppola, “Slitch” exquisitely captures an aura of unequivocally feminine reverie. Bellino practically discards traditional narrative in favor of an achingly sweet nostalgia for her youth and her hometown. The character of Slitch (Dina Cataldi, in a passable, wide-eyed performance), perhaps a stand-in for the director herself, is young and foolish and obsessed with just one thing: the opposite sex. In short, she’s every teen: misunderstood by her elders and given to taking off on a whim. Stylistically, “Slitch” is an artful montage of various shooting styles, animated daydreams, and fetishistic asides. To create the feel of an impressionistic snapshot of youth, Bellino literally used a series well-timed stills throughout the film. According to the director’s commentary (by far the most worth-while feature on any DVD), these occasional stills of people, places, and things were meant to express moments of pure desire. These scattered “moments” further enhance the experience by establishing evocative, emotional signposts that don’t so much advance the plot, but recall a magical time in one’s life.
Besides the snapshots, there are a number of sequences in “Slitch” that make such seemingly mundane things like waves gently lapping at one’s feet or young Slitch trying to pick out panties look like the most exquisite things ever filmed. One particular sequence featuring nothing more than Slitch lying on a bed, dreaming of boys is elevated to pure emotional bliss through the stunning original soundtrack by The Continental OP (Will Oldham, who also plays the surfer, and David Pajo), a rarity for such a small film. In fact, it’s in these quiet moments when “Slitch” really shines and reveals an unabashedly personal and talented filmmaker in Bellino. At one point in the film, one of Slitch’s older sisters complains to the other about their free-spirited sibling, “You can’t just do whatever you want, whenever you want.” Well, as the film so poetically reminds you, when you’re sixteen and have stars in your eyes, it certainly feels like you can.
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