Lisa Viles and painter Sharon Kinney Biddle with Lady's Mantle True Color from The Art Connection
NEK Council on Aging Executive Director Lisa Viles accepts Lady’s Mantle True Colors painted by Sharon Kenney Biddle of West Barnet as the first non-profit organization to receive artwork through The Art Connection, a Boston-based program affiliated with Catamount Arts that places visual art with public-service agencies that might not otherwise afford to buy it.

Council on Aging Receives First Painting From New Catamount Arts Program

The Council on Aging recently became the first mission-driven, client-directed association in the Northeast Kingdom to receive artwork through ArtsConnect@CatamountArts, a new and innovative program facilitated by Catamount Arts.

Established in 1995 to expand public access to art in social-service settings, The Art Connection is headquartered in Boston, and supports Catamount Arts in its efforts to promote visual outreach throughout northern New Hampshire and Vermont, according to Katherine French, who came on board as Catamount’s new Gallery Director last year after retiring as Director Emerita of Danforth Art, a museum and art school located just outside of Boston.

“I grew up in the Northeast Kingdom,” said French who now resides in Barton.  “I know from personal experience how meaningful art can be.  It allows us to see the world through the eyes of others and can have a profound effect on our lives.”

Social-service organizations that might not be able to buy art are invited, at no cost, to select works donated by New England artists for placement in public meeting places in their offices. The Council on Aging, which is reconfiguring how it uses its administrative headquarters in the historic Summer Street School, has opted to place Lady’s Mantle True Colors by West Barnet painter, Sharon Kenney Biddle, in its large conference room.

“We’re grateful to Sharon for donating a painting that brings lightness to often serious conversations we’re having about how best to meet the needs of an aging population,” commented Lisa Viles, the Council’s Executive Director.  “This beautiful painting connects to the natural beauty we all enjoy here.”

Kenney Biddle, a well-regarded art teacher in the Peacham and Danville schools before her retirement, chose to depict Lady’s Mantle—a flower with soft, cup-like petals that capture water droplets after a rain and grows well in shady locations, including the painter’s garden.  The frame for the painting was crafted by Frame Dames of St. Johnsbury, who generously donated their services.

The Council on Aging is now considering acquiring additional art for its ground-floor lobby, a smaller conference room, and for its offices in Newport and Island Pond.  Other human service agencies interested in acquiring original art by regional artists through this new civic-wide initiative can contact Katherine French at kfrench@catamountarts.org.

Race: A Review

Stephen Hopkins’ Race, a French-German-Canadian Co-Production, is a somewhat standard biopic that tells the story of Jesse Owens (played by Stephan James), and his quest to become the world’s greatest track and field athlete. After being trained by Coach Larry Snyder (played by Jason Sudeikis), he finds himself on the world stage of the 1936 Olympics. In this context, Jesse is up against Adolph Hitler and his racist ideologies, which threaten to tear him apart. Due to this conflict, he has to decide whether or not he should actually go to the Olympics. While this is happening, we intersect with scenes of Avery Brundage, (played by Jeremy Irons) a well off American envoy, who is trying to negotiate a compromise with Hitler’s political party, the Third Reich, so as to avoid a boycott over Jesse Owen’s participation in the Olympics. Race may be a very simply told story, but its good performances and compelling story, make it even more enjoyable than expected.

Race’s title actually has two meanings. The first, obviously, refers to the Olympics and the running race Owens is involved in, and the second meaning, of course, has to do with Jesse Owens and the prejudice he receives on the field because of his race,and being an African American athlete. Stephan James’ plays Owens as a fiercely stubborn and persistent runner who wants to be the best. James’ performance is somewhat cautious, and while he seems to lack a huge amount of dramatic depth in the role, he is, nonetheless, very good. Comedian Jason Sudeikis, as Coach Larry Snyder, is a bit of the odd duck in the film. While he is basically very good in the role, it does feel like he’s trying too hard with a little too much brooding and seriousness, as if to remind the audience that he’s not playing his usual funny role with comic relief. When he delivers lines, like “no room on the team for us”, all I can think of to myself is here is a serious Sudeikis who wants to seen as a serious actor, playing a serious role, very seriously. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, with Jeremy Irons as Avery Brundage, who spends most of his scenes talking a lot to Germans, and William Hurt, as a racist coach, being the standouts.

The direction by Stephen Hopkins is fine. There are some slow-motion scenes, such as when Coach Snyder is telling Jessie if he hears voices from outside the stadium, and Coach Snyder’s voice slows down, then the scenes switch almost automatically back and forth. Another example of this, whenever Jessie is running, the scenes will literally go silent just before the races are about to begin. The running scenes, in general, are quite exhilarating, and are the highlights of the film, even if they don’t take up much of the film’s screen time, and don’t appear until about half-way through the film.

I especially liked the musical score by Rachel Portman. While a lot of the music is very inspirational-sounding, I quite liked the dark and sinister music for the Nazis, however the music that plays when Jessie Owens walks onto the Olympic running field is oddly somewhat dark sounding as well, and then it builds to an epic rushing piece, eventually.

What’s unusually odd about Race, which I didn’t particularly care for, is just how weirdly edited it is, at least in the first half. Scenes sometimes cut from one to the other, and some of them feel oddly out of place. An example of this is when Jessie Owens and Coach Snyder are talking, and the film cuts to a shot of Avery Brundage standing before some Germans. While this sort of thing wouldn’t normally bother me, the editing is done so abruptly that I can’t help but notice it.

Surprisingly, the film doesn’t explore the race angle as much as you would expect. Instead, it goes for more of a quasi-inspirational film, with some thriller elements thrown in. There are some race issues addressed in the film, but if this issue had been developed more, it might have made the movie a bit more interesting in the story department. That said, overall, Race is a solid biopic. It does tackles some major themes, and the direction, acting, musical score, and settings all make it worthwhile for at least one viewing experience.

On a separate note, I’ve been writing film reviews for the Catamount Arts Blog now for the past two and a half years as part of my Internship experience in the Lyndon State College English Department’s Film Studies major. It has been a really fun experience for me, and I’ll definitely miss it, but sometimes you’ve gotta move on. Farewell to all and here’s the beginning of my new blogging adventure. I hope you stop by and let me know how you like it: http://dandavisddd.blogspot.com/

Long Live The Cinema!!!

My Golden Days: A Review: A Look-Back In Teenage Agony

My Golden Days is the story of Paul Dedalus, an anthropologist, played by Mathieu Amalric as an adult and Quentin Dolmaire as an adolescent, who returns to France after spending a lot of time travelling overseas. As he tries to board a train, and return home, he is detained for questioning by Intelligence Services, because someone with the same name and birthdate had been discovered dead in Australia. As Paul is being questioned, he begins to relate his childhood, and we flashback to him as a youthful young man, living with his crazy mother, his trip to the Soviet Union, and especially, his love affair with Esther.

My Golden Days is set up into several segments with titles, such as, “Opening”, “Esther”, and “Epilogue”. Within the first twenty minutes, since Paul is mistaken for a Communist, one might assume the film would turn into a spy-thriller, but it doesn’t. Instead, it is a coming of age film, set in France, and Paul’s character is a common one found in French cinema: a young man who spends too much time thinking.

There are some nice directing touches by director and co-writer, Arnaud Desplechin, in this film. One sequence, in particular, stood out when the film segways between Paul walking and Esther talking about missing him. Another nicely done film sequence was when Paul sees visions of his own mother while visiting Paris. Both of these sequences add to the overall feel of the film quite well.

Aside from Mathieu Amalric, I’m not familiar with most of the cast. This is largely due to Amalric having starred in many English Language productions, such as the Grand Budapest Hotel and Quantum of Solace, in addition to his numerous French productions. Of note, Amalric played this character, Paul Dedalus, twenty years earlier (1996) in Desplechin’s My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into An Argument. Amalric and Desplechin have worked together off and on since The Sentinel (1992)

The film’s musical score has a really atmospheric and mysterious feel to it, and in parts, it actually reminded me of the classic Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo soundtrack, with a dark piano piece playing in the background of a few scenes. The soundtrack also uses a lot of popular English language hip-hop and rap-songs in order to emphasize what was popular with teenagers in the 80’s, and 90’s.

The things that didn’t like about My College Days, is that it has a bit of air of apparent pretentious, particularly when Paul is talking to Esther, with dialogue like “A Chinese game, I can teach you”, and “I don’t crack off, I really don’t”, coming off as especially annoying and the sorta love triangle introduced near the end of the film, between Peter, Esther, and Jeanne Dedalus, a man she starts dating, while Paul is away. Also the film has a character named Robert, who rebels and runs away from his parents when they come to visit him, and he ends up staying with his cousins. This is not only poorly handled, but it serves no purpose within the context of the story, and is utterly meaningless. It could have been cut out entirely from the film, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

My Golden Days is a well intentioned, well made film about a man relating his younger years. Some of the film could have been trimmed down, and loose ends tied up, but as it is, it’s a film that has a lot of interesting things to it and is at least worth checking out.

The Lady In The Van: A Review

The Lady in The Van, based off a true-story, is a surprisingly very well-made and funny black comedy/drama movie. It tells the story of a man who forms a relationship with an old, crazy woman who is living in her van that is parked in his driveway. This film works mainly because of the relationship between these two characters is believable, and Maggie Smith delivers an amazingly, wickedly amusing performance in the title role.

Adapted from his best-selling novel about his own life experience, Alan Bennett (played by Alex Jennings), is a writer and an actor who, in the 1970s, befriended Miss Mary Shepherd (played by Maggie Smith), a very eccentric elderly woman. He allowed Miss Shepherd to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. As the story develops, over the course of fifteen years, Bennett discovers that Miss Shepherd is actually, in fact, Margaret Fairchild, a former, gifted pupil of the pianist, Alfred Cortot. In her past, Ms. Fairchild/Shepherd had played in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, and after being committed to an institution, was diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

The film has some nice directing touches by Nicholas Hytner, but it seems to rely a lot on the characters’ acting, and Maggie Smith carries the film quite well. Her sense of “craziness” is well portrayed, and believable whenever she’s overacting or yelling. “I didn’t choose. I was chosen”, she yelled at one point. Alex Jennings is very good in his part, as well, particularly in the sequences where he’s talking to himself, as if daydreaming, about what’s going on in his life. His performance is quite nuanced in that regard.

Two of my favorites directing touches were a montage of Alan Bennett, cleaning up and sweeping his house, and another depicting Shepherd in a flashback, showing her playing a piano, but a Catholic female priest stopped her before she could finish. These two scenes helped add to the overall feel of the film.

The film has a great amount of black humor in it. The script is quite good, and lines such as “Sex. I read about that, too”, and, “I know what I’m talking about”, made me laugh quite a bit.

The score by George Fenton, who actually appears near the beginning of the film as a conductor, is also quite marvelous. It feels like a circus going crazy, almost paralleling the lady as a character. It also has a very adventurous and comic feel to it. It even has a dark and sinister theme at various times running throughout, which is played in scenes where it looks like something bad is about to happen.

If The Lady in The Van has any faults, it’s that it’s storyline didn’t always keep me invested in it 100% of the time, but that’s only a somewhat minor flaw to an overall very enjoyable, well-made, and well-acted film.

St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts

Linda Pouliot to perform at St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts

linda pouliotBERLIN – On Sunday, July 17th, starting at 2:00 pm, St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts will be welcoming Berlin native, singer/songwriter, Linda Pouliot! Tickets are $12.00 (adults) and $8.00 (those under 18) and are available at the arts center office or via our website, www.stkieranarts.org for a small service fee. This event is being sponsored by a grant from the NH State Council on the Arts.

Accompanied by some of the Seacoast area’s best musicians, the trio will present; Edith Piaf’s, “ La Vie En Rose,” Charles Aznavour’s, “Parler Moi D’Amour,” songs of Lucienne Delisle, Charles Trenet, Lucienne Boyer, Nana Mouscouri and an array of original songs as well. If you do not speak French; no worries, songs will include an English translation and beautiful melodies which are sure to please!

From the time of her first professional jazz/blues performance in 2009, Ms. Pouliot has been inspired by the response to French songs. Growing up in Berlin, New Hampshire, Ms. Pouliot’s Sunday mornings included listening to WMOU, the local radio station, broadcast songs by such artists as La Bolduc and Edith Piaf. Memories from those days inspired her to write the song, “La Tradition Du Beau Dimanche.” She is thrilled to have performed at the Franco Americaine Center for the Arts in Lewiston, Maine and at La Kermesse Franco Americaine in Biddeford where she is scheduled to perform again this year.

With the help of Seacoast Jazz Society President, Charlie Jennison, Ms. Pouliot is happy to be involved in the preservation of Classic French songs. “I’ve never been to Paris, but Paris lives in my heart. My father served a tour of duty there during World War II, and although he brought back with him tragedies of war that affect so many of our soldiers and their families, he brought back something very special too“, Pouliot explains. “My mother had a deep appreciation for the arts. I learned Edith Piaf’s music from her and my brother and I inherited the love for a culture, rich in music, art and tradition, which makes us who we are.” Ms. Pouliot is dedicating this performance to her family and is anxious to share her love of French Heritage with everyone in this community; a community she quickly claims as her “hometown.”

For more information about this concert, to purchase tickets, a membership or loyalty cards or to make a donation to the annual or capital improvement funds in support of our Seven to Save project, please contact the Arts Center at (603) 752-1028; visit www.stkieranarts.org or www.facebook.com/stkieranarts.

Upcoming Events:
Saturday, August 6th at 7:00 pm – Chicago Total Access, High-energy, band covering the music of Chicago
Saturday, September 10th at 7:00 pm – Zostak, Classic Rock by a Class Local Band

Programming at St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts is made possible by the support of community corporate sponsors, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, The NH State Council on the Arts, Plum Creek, The Wyman Family Fund, The Rydin Family Fund and The Doris Benz Trust.

Judy Collins

Judy Collins to Perform at Randolph, Vermont’s Chandler Music Hall Sunday, May 15 at 7pm

Judy Collins, the endlessly prolific singer, songwriter, author and activist, will celebrate her newly released studio album with an intimate concert at The Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vermont on Sunday, May 15 at 7p.m.  Tickets,starting at $30, can be purchased online at www.catamountix.org or by calling Catamount Arts at (802) 748-2600. This event is presented by The Rutland Herald and A&R Entertainment.

Heralded as the “Ageless Wild Angel Of Pop” by The New York Times, Judy Collins is known for her sublime vocals, personal life triumphs, and firm commitment to social activism. An award-winning singer-songwriter, her iconic rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame and “Send in the Clowns” won “Song of the Year” at the 1975 Grammy Awards.

The new release ‘Strangers Again’ (Wildflower/Cleopatra), her first studio work since 2011, was released in September of 2015 and climbed to #1 on Amazon’s music chart. In this album, Collins is golden voiced and soaring over fresh interpretations of songs by Leonard Bernstein and Sondheim, Randy Newman and James Taylor. She invited a number of special guests to join her: Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, Don McLean, Jeff Bridges, Glen Hansard, Willie Nelson and more.

Collins began her impressive music career at 13 as a classical piano prodigy but the hardluck tales and rugged sensitivity of folk revival music by artists such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger seduced her away from a life as a concert pianist. Her path pointed to a lifelong love affair with the guitar and pursuit of emotional truth in lyrics which has influenced so many artists. Recently, contemporary and classic artists such as Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, Dolly Parton, Joan Baez, and Leonard Cohen honored her legacy with the album Born to the Breed: A Tribute to Judy Collins.

Collins, now 76, is as creative as ever, writing, touring worldwide, and nurturing fresh talent. She has appeared everywhere from Sesame Street to HBO’s Girls, performed at a presidential inauguration and released two live DVD/CD specials in the past three years which were also broadcast on PBS. She performs over 100 shows a year.

The VVitch: A Review: An Unsettling Horror

The VVitch (2015) is a horror film in the truest sense. It doesn’t try to scare the audience by using jump-scares. It isn’t excessively gory, at least not until the end, and it tries to build up the horror and mystery, instead of throwing it in the audience’s face first. The VVitch isn’t so much of an unexpected surprise, as it is a masterfully made horror film. Like most well-made horror films, it isn’t even solely about the horror itself, as much as it is about a bunch of issues affecting everyone else.

                The VVitch is set in New England, in 1630, and tells the story of two devote Christians, William (played by Ralph Ineson), and Katherine (played by Kate Dickie), who live in the wilderness with their five children. When their youngest son is taken from them, and killed, they begin to turn against each other as they suspect that somebody in their midst is in fact practicing black magic.

What I largely liked about this film was its build-up in establishing the setting and atmosphere. By having The VVitch set entirely in the woods, director Ralph Eggers is able to create a much more complicated atmosphere by the grey perfect cinematography and many of the scenes being shot with no sound except chilling and intense music. These types of scenes, particularly when characters are being struck down by the witch, create a lot of real tension as the main characters grow increasingly paranoid and their growing insanity becomes all the more believable.

The actors’ performances added greatly to the film’s believability. In particular, Ralph Ineson, who plays the father, gives a very “dry performance” in tone, especially since he has to deliver a lot of Shakespearian-styled dialogue that was the norm for the time period. So, seeing him turn completely ballistic by the end, was insanely great. Also of note, is Anna Taylor-Joy, as the eldest daughter who is accused of being a witch, is great in her role.

                The VVitch has a very slow pace, lacks modern day horror convention, and contains some pretty graphic images of characters, a dog and baby being killed, which I thought was a bit unnecessarily shocking, But, that aside, The VVitch is a very well-made horror film that works. It’s definitely recommended, unless, of course, you have a weak stomach.

PoemTown St Johnsbury Events

Beth Kanell

[Above] Beth Kanell led a poetry “conversation” with the theme of “Listen” on Thursday, Apr. 14 at Café at Gatto Nero Press.

On Wednesday, Apr. 20 and Apr. 27, there will be noontime readings at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum. Library staff will read a few poems, then others can read poems in an open mic format. Refreshments are served.

Don’t miss the PoemTown St. Johnsbury poetry slam on Thursday, Apr. 21 at 7pm at Kingdom Taproom in St. Johnsbury. Poets perform original poems and are judged by members of the audience in a raucous, fun competition hosted by Vermont’s Poetry Slam Champion Geof Hewitt. Bring two original poems to compete.

Youth: A Review

Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth is a considerably strong movie about the human embodiment and age, and a celebration of the internal spirit. The film works well thanks to being well-made, well edited, and well-acted.

Set in a hotel, Youth tells the story of two elderly friends, Fred and Mick, who are on vacation in an elegant hotel near the Alps. Fred Ballinger (played by Michael Caine) is a retired composer and conductor, and Mick Boyle (played by Harvey Keitel) is a (still working) movie director. Fred has some issues with his daughter’s attitude (played by Rachel Weisz), and Mick is just bewildered by the crazy people who are in the hotel, particularly Jimmy Tree (played by Paul Dano), a method actor who is constantly bewildered when people only remember him for his role as a robot. Mick is struggling to try and get his last intended film made, and is trying to get aging diva, Brenda Morel (played by Jane Fonda) involved. Meanwhile, Fred is retired from his musical career, but is considering performing again after he is approached to perform his song “Simple Songs” in front of Queen Elizabeth at Prince Philip’s birthday concert. Both stories meet and go, but are pretty effectively told.

One of the many things that really makes Youth work are the acting performances. There are a lot of seasoned actors in this film really showing their chops. Michael Caine has one of his best roles in this film. As the bitter and aging musician, Fred Ballinger, Caine is mostly restrained, showing much emotion through his raw energy. A lot of the times, especially when he and his daughter talk, there is much believability and genuine heart between the two. Harvey Keitel is also very good as Mick Boyle, a counterbalance to Ballinger, Boyle is more cool and collective, and not as easily depressed. He does struggle with trying to get his work done, but he’s very open about it. This is probably the best thing in years that Keitel has been involved in. Weisz is a nice support as Ballinger’s daughter, and I love her delivery of “You didn’t know the first thing about my mother”. Dano is his usual charmingly weird self. Jane Fonda has brief screen time, and her character is a bit of a nag and a diva, but her introduction sequence, filmed from the back, and then showing her smile in the reflection of a camera, and then finally facing the camera, really personifies her characters’ personality, and is well-done.

The film is actually a very director driven film. Sorrentino really shows his craftsmanship as a filmmaker, with some of the scenes he does here. There are, for example, some really bizarre dream sequences. One involves Fred imagining he is walking around the palace of Queen Elizabeth as the water slowly starts to rise and collapse on him. Another dream sequence involves Ballinger’s daughter, Lena, who is in a commercial with a bunch of cool recording artists. The dream literally ends with her being covered up with flames. Another sequence involves Mick trying to film an actress, and then he starts imagining actresses in different time periods as policewomen, Victorian style women, and even a femme fatale in the black and white stylings of Lauren Bacall. These sequences really don’t add much to the story, but they are great and very enjoyable to watch from a directing standpoint. Another nice directing touch is a montage, early on in the film, of people moving in and around the hotel, as it cuts back and forth to Fred scrunching up a candy-bar wrapper. There’s also nice humor in the film, with lines like “That’s a totally asinine idea”, and “Most insignificant woman in the world”, which made me chuckle.

As a lot of the film is about music, naturally music plays a key role. The Oscar-nominated song “Simple Songs Number 3” is a nice ballad, performed by Korean singer, Sumi Jo, and is bout the simple pleasures and struggles of life. The actual music in the film itself is pretty good, sounding very eloquent and well-layered.

Youth can suffer from some pretentious dialogue, and feel a little overdone in its pacing and directing, and this is Sorrentino’s first English language film, which explains the dialogue. However, once you get past those not so significant misgivings, I think you’ll find a mostly enjoyable film about the human spirit, and how, at any age, we can and do keep trying to accomplish things. It’s certainly a film worth checking out.