Monthly Archives: August 2014

Dormant Beauty A Review – Well Meaning But Lacking

Film reviews by Daniel Davis are an internship project in partnership with Lyndon State College. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer and not of Catamount Arts.

Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty is a well-made movie. The film has good acting, good cinematography, decent dialogue, some interesting directing choices, strong themes, and all around is a very well done movie. Despite this though, the film suffers from a somewhat confusing story structure.

There is a specific story in Dormant Beauty, but it is also about episodes that tackle such subjects as life, love and hope. Such stories are treated in an adult manner. Dormant Beauty is set in Italy, and is based on the true story of Eluana Englaro, a woman who, because of a car accident, is in a coma state. Her parents consider euthanasia, but isn’t legal to do in Italy in her specific situation, and the church and politics get involved.

Dormant Beauty is also about two other stories relating to acquaintances of Englaro. These stories don’t feel that connected to each other, which makes the film seem like it’s more of an anthology series in some ways, but the similarity in subject material is still evident. One of the stories is about a young woman trying to kill herself with heroin. I liked how they approached the topic of heroin and suicide and the acting was also very good. The other story is about a member of the political government of Berlusconi who refuses to join the party and wants to pursue a bill that will make euthanasia completely illegal in Italy. What I liked about the political story of the film was the way it was shot. After the death of a woman in the politician’s story which he is sad about it, in the background, a political gathering is shown appearing from the politician’s mind, but almost like it’s happening right next to him, but it’s not.  That scene is incredibly powerful and powerfully acted.

The film’s score, small as it is, is quite good. Having a classical feel but also a modern mix as well.

Dormant Beauty is a film with good intentions, but suffers from somewhat of an incoherent story, and a lack of a real style. It has its moments, and the setting looks great however.

Snowpiercer – A Review – A Bleak Unsettling Great Discovery

Film reviews by Daniel Davis are an internship project in partnership with Lyndon State College. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer and not of Catamount Arts.

Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer is an interesting gem. It is a very bleak, dark, dystopian-styled future film. The film runs over 2 hours long, but goes at a nice pace. As bleak as Snowpiercer was, it was amazingly well done. The direction was fantastic. I loved just about every minute of it and the acting was great.

Snowpiercer is set in 2031, when a failed climate-change experiment kills just about everybody on the planet except for those who have been fortunate enough to board The Snowpiercer, a huge train that travels around the globe with a class system. Eventually the lower, literally dirty class led by Curtis (Chris Evans), tries to revolt in an attempt to get the conductors room and find out what’s really going on.

Snowpiercer is a very dark looking movie. The lead characters look incredibly dirty. This is no doubt from the fact that they’ve been living in a very muddy part of the train and haven’t had any water in years. The tone is consistent throughout the film as the story progresses, characters are brutally killed and bodies pile up. This type of tone may be not pleasing for the general audience, but as a longtime movie buff, I loved how the director approached this, and appreciated it as well.

The acting is Snowpiercer is fantastic. The film features a fantastic cast, and none of them feel wasted. You have Chris Evans as the protagonist who is somewhat strikingly unrecognizable with his dirty face. Although Evans does seem to mumble at the beginning of the film, his performance does gradually get better, and by the end, when his character has a breakdown, his emotions and acting are terrifically well done.  The rest of the cast includes: John Hurt, playing his usual elderly nice guy character (only this time with a secret); Kang-ho Song as Namgoong Minsoo, a higher-up who can open and close doors on the train who joins Curtis and his rebellion; Octavia Spencer, as a grieving mother whose son is kidnapped; Jamie Bell as Edgar, a sort of wannabe tough guy; Tilda Swinton as Mason, one of the film’s main antagonist, as a superior officer type; and Ed Harris, as the train conductor. The performances are all well-acted in the film, and each character serves the story well.

One of the things I especially liked about Snowpiercer was how the characters weren’t just evil or good. In many ways, the majority of the characters in Snowpiercer are quite unlikeable. It’s not just brown and grey, like it can be in so many films. The so-called villains of the story, led by Mason (Tilda Swinton), are portrayed as being higher-ups who don’t seem to have any bit of redeeming qualities about them and are heartless, but surprisingly seem to have good points and intentions. On the other side, we have our heroes, led by Curtis, who aren’t real heroes when you think about. They attack, they kill, and they are treated more like noble savages than anything. This is consistent with the film’s excellent message about the human condition: how a society can go from being considered an elite to completely destroying themselves.

The direction by South Korean filmmaker, Joon-ho Bong, doing his first English language film, is excellent. The film definitely fits his trademark style of multiple events occurring in long takes. Scenes, like when the members of the train are revolting, or where the train goes over the bridge, show a lot of things going on all at once and being captured simultaneously in a dark green lighted screen. Snowpiercer does, however, suffer from some of its action scenes, which, while exhilarating to watch, had at times shaky cam overload.

Snowpiercer doesn’t feel like your usual average blockbuster, despite the fact that it could easily have fallen into that very category. This film was clearly made with an intent. Sure, there are some plot holes in the film, especially regarding the use of the train, but thanks to great direction, great directing, and a great “muddy, dark” look, Snowpiercer is among the best of 2014.

August in the Gallery: Ann Young and Michale Estar

Two of the Northeast Kingdom’s most creative and highly respected artists will share the Main Gallery at Catamount Arts for the month of August.
Ann Young will present her latest oil paintings in a show titled “Autumn Pond Abstract: Recent Paintings,” while Michale Estar will display new collages in a show she calls “The Healing Art of Collage.”

A special reception honoring Young and Estar will be held from 5 – 7 pm Friday, August 8, at the Catamount Arts center on Eastern Avenue in St. Johnsbury. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Young has been living in Vermont since 1970 and has been a painter since 2001. Previous to 2001 she was a sculptor. She has spent most of the years working on painting the human figure with an occasional foray into landscape or animals. Her work has often exhibited a strong tendency to social commentary.

Her new show is a departure from the past. The paintings may seem to be abstract but, in f act, they are a realistic rendition of extreme close ups of decaying floating pond leaves. They are an example of pure nature worship. Young feels that there is no end to the color and design that she can find in these simple little leaves.

“When I go out paddling on May Pond, I see all of the things that one expects to enjoy on a lovely autumn day in Vermont,” Young commented recently. “There are the hills, brilliant in their fall colors, the sparkling sky, a loon or maybe two.”

“At the shallow end of the pond, I find the Water Shield plants that become riddled with the trails of leaf miners and spots of decay. All of this makes for a stunning array of color and pattern,” she continued. “The paintings in this new show are a reflection of that joy in natural color and form. I feel that my paint brush has been recruited into the service of a common, little water plant.”

Estar also believes that her most inspired and creative work comes from the natural world.

“The creative process begins when we are children and are given the opportunity to play freely with simple materials such as sand, water, clay, wood, paper, paint, music. Rhythm, words and so on,” she said. “In adults, this creativity becomes the combining of color, form, line, texture and familiar objects into art.”

Estar, who attended Cooper Union College of Art and holds a BA from Goddard College, incorporates objects that people use every day such as dungarees, brown paper shopping bags and other found objects to create the symbols and symbolism she uses in her collages to explore life’s questions through artistic expression.
“Art is meant to awaken our soul’s capacities,” Estar said. “Art allows the soul to be given alphabets of understanding and alphabets of expression.”
Visitors will be invited to interact with Estar’s exhibit, including touching the collages, taking them off the wall and exploring the many hidden pockets and messages that are included in them, and even walking on one large collage displayed on the gallery floor.

Both “Autumn Pond Abstract: Recent Paintings” and “The Healing Art of Collage” will be on view in the Main Gallery at Catamount Arts until the end of August.
The galleries at Catamount Arts are open free to the public from 11 am – 6 pm Monday through Saturday and before and after each film screening.