Master and Tatyana aims to show the genius, larger than life presence of the former figure who some call ‘Master’. He’s Vitas Luckus, a photographer when Lithuania was still part of Soviet Russia. Director Giedre Zickyte tries to show his beautiful photographs, many of them old school self portraits. Lukus was that rare breed of photographer who actually came into the frame, sharing it with his muse and wife Tatyana. These are images that the West never saw or more sadly, images they forgot. To contextualize them are his friend and colleagues who scattered themselves across the Western world.
Zickyte chooses to show Luckus mostly through his photographs, but sometimes these colleagues make an appearance onscreen, discussing what makes Luckus great and what his flaws are. Alcohol was a factor, just like it is most of the time, as well as the creative limits within his life. This is a great premise and all, as these colleagues even talk of the couple’s great parties. And at the risk of sounding superficial, it’s nice to know that there was once a photographer who deserved to take pictures of himself, whose eroticism and whose reverence of his beautiful wife didn’t seem sleazy.
Zickyte’s approach sadly neuters her subjects and this would have benefited from more videos of him, to see how the man breathed and lived. This approach adds to the cold Eastern European stereotype, where people couldn’t enjoy themselves. Or worse, people whose little indulgences led them to their doom. Zickyte might have been trying to be as respectful as possible in depicting a visual master. But there’s too solemn of an air to this. Even the saddest eulogies are capable of evincing various emotions and capture the human experience. Both its visuals and its tone make its subject static.