Film Review: Loving Vincent

By Raphael Beretta

Every so often, there comes the scarce opportunity to witness something truly special. A candidly unique piece of art rarely infiltrates the theater, and even more seldomly does that art permeate the mainstream.

A film like Loving Vincent cannot survive next to blockbuster titans like the latest entries from the MCU or star-studded holiday comedies. It is carefully crafted, passionate, wholly original, and in dire need of support, so that future endeavors in a similar vein can be made possible.

Hugh Welchman took nearly six years to complete the first fully-painted feature film. Every frame of animation is a complete oil canvas reimagining of the works of legendary artist Vincent van Gogh. In total, there are 65,000 frames in the film, and the story was derived from analyzing hundreds of Vincent’s personal letters; this project was a laborious undertaking.

Photo from Phoenix.org.uk

Photo from Phoenix.org.uk

The film employs a technique similar to the rotoscope method: the film was shot with real actors and then painted over frame by frame. Four of the six years of production were dedicated solely to mastering this style. The actors' physical performances were thus captured through the painting process, elevating their participation from voice acting to a tangible presence within the art.

The story is as poignant as the way it is told. Set one year after the death and alleged suicide of van Gogh, his Postman Roulin (Chris O’Dowd) orders his son Armand (Douglas Booth) to deliver a letter Vincent wrote to his brother before he died.

Early on in his journey, Armand discovers Vincent’s brother perished from illness shortly after his own demise. Armand then begins a quest to find out why a man, reportedly “calm and in a normal mood”, would take his own life. He encounters Vincent’s muse (Soairse Ronan) and his psychiatrist Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn), among many other influences in Vincent’s life.

The film is breathtakingly beautiful. When every frame is literally a painting, this comes as no surprise. The artists were able to bring the style of van Gogh to the medium of film gracefully and imaginatively. There are two styles for two stories being told: van Gogh’s classic, colorful “Starry Night” style for Armand’s journey, and a series of more realistic black and white paintings for flashbacks of Vincent’s final days. The “real world” being depicted as the world through Vincent’s eyes was a brilliant decision.

Every brush stroke is felt in this film. The care and effort that was put into being faithful to the artist enhances the emotional power of the story, one of a man struggling with mental illness and purpose in life. His sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice, is for his family.

Jerome Flynn (Bronn in HBO’s Game of Thrones) gives a devastating performance of the defeated Dr. Gachet, not only a caretaker of Vincent, but a close friend and loyal admirer. Chris O’Dowd (IT Crowd) was surprisingly effective as the Postman, a source of subtle wisdom throughout the film.

Loving Vincent is one of the most creative premises and personal projects produced in a very long time. Whether it means paying the extra money to support your local independent theater (like Rhinebeck’s Upstate Films) to see it or waiting until the film becomes available for sale online and on Demand, it is unlike anything that has preceded it. It is beautiful, haunting, and inspiring. It surely is a contemporary masterpiece, hopefully it will not be forgotten.

Loving Vincent was released by Altitude Film Distribution on June 12, 2017. It was funded by the Polish Film Institute, with additional funding coming from a Kickstarter campaign. 200 of its paintings are being sold. For more information, visit lovingvincent.com.

Film Review: Lady Bird

By Raphael Beretta

Photo from VanityFair.com

Photo from VanityFair.com

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is a clever, touching, and very accurate depiction of teenage angst, Catholic school and the special turbulence of a mother-daughter relationship.

Saoirse Ronan shines as Christine (or “Lady Bird,” as she calls herself as an act of defiance), a Sacramento native reaching the end of her high school tenure. Christine wants to be freed from the restraints of her lower-income status, her strict high school, and her stern mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. She tries theater, experiences a first love, navigates first-time sexual encounters with naivete, and pursues her dream of moving to the east coast.

Ronan is captivating as “Lady Bird.” She embodies the confusion of blooming adulthood, a balance between sweet and sting. Her frustrations are relatable, with every discouraged grunt and exasperated squeal bringing the audience back to an uncomfortable time within their own lives. Her touching innocence from The Lovely Bones and poised wit from The Grand Budapest Hotel have been further developed into her sure-to-be Oscar-nominated performance in Lady Bird.

Metcalf was equally as impressive in her performance of a mother who loves her daughter but has difficulty expressing it outside of her push toward her child’s perfection. Adorned with a rigid frown throughout the feature, Metcalf displayed a passive-aggressive side to “tough love”. She portrayed a character realistically flawed, with realistically redeeming qualities.

The supporting cast of characters adds to the believability and relatability of the world of Lady Bird. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) plays an upper-class theatre star and the subject of Christine’s smitten daydreams. Stage actor Stephen Henderson plays the lovably warm priest and director of the play, who battles depression in secret. Beanie Feldstein plays Christine’s best friend Julie, and awkward A+ student in love with her math teacher. These smaller parts support the credibility of the film.

The amber tones and close camerawork make Lady Bird a visual loveletter to Sacramento, the “Midwest of California”. The film looked recognizably “indie”, using a now-familiar platform to deliver a fresh perspective. The independent film style of dialogue, editing, and cinematography have been used so frequently in recent years that it is bordering on becoming a cliche. Lady Bird walks the line carefully, always remaining a step ahead of its peers in terms of originality.

Greta Gerwig achieved a mighty feat in her first outing as a director. The “hero” of her film bears all of the insecurities, doubts and faults that we did in our adolescence; Christine is far from a perfect protagonist, but she feels real. The “villain”: mom. Flirting with independence for the first time, every teenager sees their mother as the villain of their life. The scolding, disapproving, unsatisfiable bad guy: love to the brink of annoyance.

In the modern film landscape, a battle worthy of the screen is a caped superhero preventing his or her nemesis from destroying the world. A refreshing and equally worthy battle to view is one that most of us have already fought: our hopeful curiosity vs our mother’s loving protection.

51 Fulton Houses Marist Art Gallery

New Building, Same "Charm"

From Print

By Tara Guaimano

Steel Plant Studios existed as a powerhouse for the creative cycle. A raw nature of pre and post production lied between those same four walls—separated only by a few room dividers restricted by the ceiling’s exposed duct work. 

And it still does, only down the street. This time with a few more walls—and the same culture of convergence and collaborative inspiration. 

The building’s exposed ceiling ductwork and innate openness has been temporarily replaced with a studio and gallery space at 51 Fulton St.—still carrying the same quality of faculty, students, workspace and “charm.”

“I think, thanks to the faculty and gallery staff, it retains the charm of the old gallery,” said Tara James, sophomore Coordinator of the Steel Plant Art Gallery. “The first few weeks of school was a lot of cleaning and organizing, but now it’s just like the old gallery.”

“I have been doing art since I can remember, both in my free time and in school,” said James. As an Honors student and a Studio Art and Psychology double major, she works as the student face behind this year’s series of production.

“The space is very pleasant and highly useful for our purposes,” said Ed Smith, Professor of Art and Gallery Director. “The interim gallery has wonderful light and great access.”

Seniors Salvatore Isola (Left) and Joseph Kopp (Right) enjoying the gallery and some refreshments.

Seniors Salvatore Isola (Left) and Joseph Kopp (Right) enjoying the gallery and some refreshments.

The 51 Fulton St. gallery space delivers the same open nature with opening garage windows that extend the gallery events with patio access. “I really enjoy the large studio space on the third floor, the openness and windows, and the overall newness and modernness of the whole building,” continued James.

 “The most noticeable difference is the size,” she said, as the new space is smaller than the old gallery.

Smith and James have crafted the vibe of the gallery into a classic approach of observation and admiration of multifaceted art. As Smith claims, they are up to “great things as usual.”

“My colleagues and I are busy with new initiatives and the students are gearing up for their Junior Critiques,” Smith continued.

James has carried her hard work in the art department to taking up this new administrative position as the Coordinator. “It includes sending e-mails to the gallery staff, finding people to work certain jobs, setting up exhibits, working openings, and making sure everything gets done that needs to.”

James expressed her excitement for the building of the new Steel Plant Studios, scheduled to open in August 2018. “We will combine with the fashion program, so there will be a lot more going on in the building.”

It will feature “a warehouse-like, industrial aesthetic,” as according to construction updates on Marist Connect, continuing to advance the overall aura of the environment.

“Even in the transition to 51 Fulton, I think the art program has begun to expand, as there is much more room to work,” she said. “The renovated Steel Plant will further this expansion of our program, and add some more appeal to prospective studio art students.”

The last gallery exhibition was titled NON FINITO, featuring the work of faculty member Lois Walsh, opened on Wednesday, Nov. 15 and will continue running until Dec. 9.  “We look forward to seeing you for what promises to be a fine show of paintings by this respected colleague,” said Smith.

The new temporary art building is located at 51 Fulton, across the street from the Fulton parking lot.

MCCTA Review: Jake's Women and Lost in Yonkers

By Raphael Beretta

Jake’s Women is a brutal journey inward, centered around the life of novelist Jake (played by Logan Monaco ’21) as he deals with a crumbling second marriage and the pains of letting go of his deceased wife. Set in 1990s New York City, Jake is visited by self-created manifestations of the women in his life. These visions serve to sort out his various psychological issues and point him toward painful catharsis. It may be the most personal play Neil Simon has ever written, and the most painful one to endure.

The show’s success rests on the shoulders of Monaco, as it is through his eyes that we are experiencing this world. Monaco balanced charm with neuroticism, accurately representing the arrogance and self-pity the author battles with. His performance warmed up throughout the show, starting with a light simmer and ending at a full-boil.

The two most important women in Jake’s life are his deceased wife, Julie (played heartbreakingly pure and naïve by Amanda Dettman ’19), and his fleeting second-wife Maggie (played by Lydia DeLuca ’20.) DeLuca played Maggie with a certain bitterness that only years of climbing the corporate ladder and running from a loveless marriage can bring. Dettman’s energetic and youthful portrayal of Jake’s deceased love embodied the pain of early loss.

The cast is rounded out by the other women of Jake’s life. The standout performance of the show, the acting that supported the emotional crux of Jake’s internal battle, was given by Rachel Lohrius ’18. Lohrius played the 21-year-old memories of Jake’s daughter, Molly. Her confrontation with the remembered version of her mother was portrayed with genuine sorrow and anger. At times, the dialogue became muffled by the whimpering and sniffling of the audience; her emotions were felt by all.

Jake’s therapist, Edith, was played like a sassy Lorraine Bracco by Lana Canton ’19 and the sharp-witted remarks made by Jake’s sister Karen were delivered hilariously by Molly Fedigan ’18. The acting in Jake’s Women was outstanding.

Courtesy of Raphael Beretta, staff writer 

Courtesy of Raphael Beretta, staff writer 

The intimate setting of the thrust-seating style placed the audience on the stage amongst the actors, enabling the audience to connect with the drama much more effectively than a conventional set. The sleek design of the apartment with leopard-print lamps, an elegant bar, and a raised-level workspace constructed like an altar to the typewriter was brilliantly put together. Small details like the bar-pretzels, perhaps an Easter egg to Lost in Yonkers (the recurring joke about stolen pretzels) or the Don Quixote poster (a callback to a line about the soundtrack to Lost in La Mancha) did not go unnoticed.

Jake’s Women was a powerful show about pain, loss, and intimacy, giving the audience a rarely-seen glimpse of the darker side of comic genius Neil Simon’s psyche.

Lost in Yonkers, considered widely as the pinnacle of Simon’s later work, follows Jay (Fred Darcy ’20) and Arty (Joe Lamberti) and their struggles to survive living with their tough-as-steel grandmother (Stephanie Hepburn) and their kooky aunt (Gabriella Morris ’18) in 1940s Yonkers.

The boys are left with no other place to live after their mother loses her battle with cancer and their father, Eddie (Cameron Smith ’19), begins losing his battle with loan sharks and is forced to go on the road working with scrap metal for the war effort. Their uncle, Louie (Ikponmwosa Osagie ’20), a bagman for a local gangster, joins the already-crowded house to hideout and offer the boys some life advice.

The thrust stage, matched with age-accurate furniture (complete with doilies on the sofa) and a stuffy arrangement, made for a claustrophobic experience that perfectly encapsulated what Jay and Arty were feeling. The sounds of the radio and voiceover from their father’s letters framed the setting artfully. Of the two plays, the blocking of Lost in Yonkers took more advantage of the thrust style, with the actors playing to every possible angle.

The costumes were done tastefully, remaining both appropriate for the time and accenting the personality of each character. Arty’s costuming especially served to represent his unique traits.

Darcy came out strong in his portrayal of Jay, firing off wise-cracks, performing impressions and demonstrating coming-of-age neuroticism that any Jewish New Yorker could recognize. Darcy’s talent blended well with that of Lamberti’s, as the hilariously honest innocence of the 6th grader was often met with disdain from Darcy’s Jay. The two had believable chemistry as brothers and played off each other masterfully.

Not a surprise (50 appearances in TV and film and a daughter on the West End is evidence for talent), professional actress Stephanie Hepburn shined as Grandma Kurnitz. Hepburn’s brilliant expressions of scorn, grizzled German-American accent and agonizing gait brought the character to life.

Her foil Aunt Bella, an immature woman-child with kind intentions, was portrayed well by Morris. Her performance was especially impressive during her emotion-ridden pleas to Hepburn’s character to allow her to marry a man and half-children, finally starting a life of her own after nearly forty years. Her childish attributes that started as both annoying and fodder for Darcy’s wit eventually formed the most tragic moments of the show.

Ikponmwosa’s Louie had a major presence on stage. He moved around with a power and weight different from the Richard Dreyfuss interpretation in the film, but an effective version of the character. Eddie (Cameron Smith ’19) and Aunt Gert (Brielle Wheeler ’19) added depth to the dysfunctional family structure of the house. Wheeler’s inhale-speak (made fun of earlier by Jay) destroyed the audience when first revealed, and Smith’s Eddie was nothing but likeable.

Lost in Yonkers presented themes of growing up and responsibilities to family, while teaching the important lesson that everyone deserves some understanding.

The Neil Simon Showcase presented two very different sides of Simon, but both shows included deeply personal confrontations and internal conflicts with inner demons among well-written characters. Both were at times cleverly funny and profoundly touching.

Directors Jim Steinmeyer (Jake’s Women) and Matt Andrews (Lost in Yonkers) executed the difficult undertaking of back-to-back shows masterfully, and gave each their own tone and personal flair while remaining faithful to the voice of Simon. MCCTA pulled off another mainstage success. 

Festival 2017: "Never Doubt I Love"


By Meghan Jones

On April 25 through 27, the Marist College Club of Theatre Arts (MCCTA) put on “Never Doubt I Love,” the 2017 edition of the annual Festival of student-written plays.  There was a major turnout for this year’s Festival, which sold out the Black Box Theatre in Fontaine on its opening night.

Festival is completely different every year.  Students submit original plays, required to be no more than 15 minutes in length and contain no more than five characters.  Five plays are selected and each is directed by a Marist student.  After the performances, one of the playwrights is chosen to receive the John P. Anderson Memorial Award, a playwriting scholarship awarded in memory of John P. Anderson, a 1986 Marist graduate who passed away shortly after his graduation.

I have been to three of the four Festivals during my time at Marist, and I was very impressed by the show this year.  Each 15-minute play had a totally different feel to it and all were very well-acted.

The show opened with “She’s an Actress,” written by Bernadette Hogan and directed by Matt McNamara.  Megan Buckley gave a standout performance as Sheila, an unmarried middle-aged woman who narrated various moments of her life spent living in the shadow of her sister.  The second show was “Beyond Our Control,” written by Ema Fernandez and directed by Liana Frasca.  Two girls dressed in white (Emma Pasqualino and Tristan Rowley) watched an estranged college couple (Dan Ahl and Katie Morreale) reconnect, and it was finally revealed that the girls were the couple’s friends who had been killed in a drunk driving accident.  Despite the somber subject matter, the play ended on a hopeful note as the couple decided to give their relationship a try and their friends looked on with approval.

“Subverted Reconnections” by Julia Franco got lots of laughs from the audience with its madcap depiction of a series of outlandish coincidences.  Fred Darcy in particular was hilarious as Carter, who, with a completely straight face, rattled off contemplations about life and the universe to his baffled fellow characters.  “Subverted Reconnections” was directed by Quincy Brown.

Valerie Mark’s “Auto Fail,” directed by Julia Franco, focused on a college student, Camryn (Kelsey Beresheim), whose boyfriend’s autocorrect-riddled texts made her think he was going to break up with her.  Mostly funny and lighthearted, the show touched upon a more serious matter when it was revealed that Camryn’s fears about her relationship sprung from her parents’ failed marriage.  Festival ended on an unsettling but thought-provoking note with Krista Piccotti’s “When the Doorbell Rings,” directed by Rachael Lohrius.  Sarah Gabrielli played Cadence, who became consumed with self-loathing while preparing for a date.  Brian Bocanegra played Richard, her ambiguous, possibly imaginary tormentor.

On May 6, MCCTA faculty advisor Matt Andrews announced the winning playwright at MCCTA’s annual banquet and award ceremony. Mark was awarded the scholarship for “Auto Fail”!   For anyone interested in writing a play for Festival 2018, submissions are due in Matt Andrews’ mailbox in Fontaine on December 8.

Film Review: "The Discovery"


By Raphael Beretta

It has been two years to the day since Dr. Thomas Harbor has scientifically proven the existence of an afterlife. Millions of people are killing themselves in order to simply “get there”. How should you react?

This is the intriguing concept proposed by The Discovery, a Netflix original film directed by Charlie McDowell. The film started streaming on March 31, and stars Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Jesse Plemons and Robert Redford as the aforementioned scientist. 

Jason Segel plays Will Harbor, the son of Thomas Harbor. Will is a neurologist that is heavily skeptical of the merits of the “discovery”. He meets Isla (Mara), and the two have an informal debate on the suicides: Will believes the scientific breakthrough is unjustly contributing to suicide, while Isla believes it has become a guaranteed easy way out. Their awkward encounters grow into a budding romance throughout the film, as a light backdrop against the dark and morbid discussions of the ethics of exploring the afterlife.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Robert Redford, who demonstrates in his role as brilliant scientist, emerging cult leader and philosophical pioneer, proving why he is among Hollywood’s greats. Jesse Plemons plays Toby, the rugged and more untamed brother of Will, who possesses more competence and intelligence than is always apparent. These two carry the film in terms of intrigue and heart, as the soulless chemistry between Segel and Mara gives the audience little to be attached to. 

The lackluster performance of Segel and pitiful performance of Mara are not entirely their fault. The writing for their dialogue is glaringly unbelievable, which is surprising because of how well the outlandish concept is written. The cold open of the film is poignant and harrowing, attacking the concept head-on. If the rest of the film had been as intense yet grounded in its exploration of the topic, it would have been an artistic success.

The tone of the first 90 percent of the film greatly differed from the last 10 percent. I will not spoil the ending, but The Discovery jarringly transitions from gritty, realistic science fiction with philosophical undertones to science fantasy with a twist from the demented offspring of M. Night Shyamalan and Christopher Nolan (which could be awesome, but trust me, it’s not.) 

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The film had several chances to explore fascinating and unique plot routes, but chose instead to go down a road too-often traveled and taking a sharp U-turn in the process. The film never builds on its initial intrigue and only depresses the audience in the process. Netflix is choosing more and more frequently to fund these original products rather than putting money into the reason most people bought Netflix in the first place: pre-existing properties. Amazon is leading the original-film race with Manchester by the Sea taking home several Oscars this past year. HBO GO has retained their mega-hit original series and Hulu is catching up with acquiring the rights to hit series such as Seinfeld and Fargo. Netflix has the rights to Scorsese’s next film The Irishman, starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci. But if they aren’t careful, the rest of their competitors could overtake them.