Local Color - Message to Modern Art

05/09/2010 16:26

Review of Local Color (2006), dir. by George Gallo

What is the difference between kitsch and respectable art? What makes a sentiment valuable? What exactly is the sun, a tree or a cloud through an artist’s eyes? Local color explores these questions in depth and surprisingly answers them all. Those who believe art must be uplifting to the human soul will unquestionably indulge in watching this movie; those who do not will be disappointed.

Nowadays, we are surrounded by so many an aspect of art that is not uplifting. More and more people, together with art critics, think it does not matter. They can find a piece of red scribble inspiring, deep and thoughtful. What is more, they appreciate works of pseudo-art that de-contextualize the worth of beauty. Yes, any art of the shocking, the gaudy and the eye-catching flourishes meeting the taste of the present time. Suddenly, in the middle of the ridiculousness of Pop Art, there appears Maestro Seroff, sipping the bottle of vodka, who declares, “If there is no Beauty, there is no Art.”

Through heartfelt discussions about touching themes, enchanting settings, peculiar characters and strong performances, George Gallo has managed to create a stunning artistic movie that lures the audience into his autobiographical story. It is about a life-changing chance for a young student named John Talia (Trevor Morgan) who dreams of becoming a great painter one day. That is why he desperately desires to be tutored by Nicholai Seroff (ArminMueller-Stahl), a well-respected Russian Impressionist artist whom John highly admires. This desire disconcerts his ordinary father (Ray Liotta) who fears his son might be a homosexual because he does not spend his youth chasing girls and playing football. Since John knows what he wants, despite his parent´s objections, he persistently knocks on the door of Nicholai, who finally lets him penetrate the secrets of painting.

It is a movie to be savored both visually and intellectually since it manages to catch the attention with an interest-holding story, cordial relationships, humor and words of wisdom. There are, however, some minor shortcomings to the film. Primarily, however convincing and beautiful Seroff´s arguments and thoughts on art and life are, his character may sometimes seem to be emotionally overstated. Secondly, since the movie is inspired by a real story, viewers expect credibility and yet, they may not be entirely convinced by the friendship between diametrical opposites--in this case--Nicolai Seroff and Curtis Sunday (Ron Pearlman), a rich art dealer who loves talking stuff and nonsense about the value of rubbish paintings for hours. Maybe, a good intention of portraying this friendship is to show that sometimes people may completely disagree over the most crucial aspects of their lives and still tolerate and love each other. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine intellectual Seroff listening to Ron´s tasteless and trivial monologues about art which, indeed, is not art. Even the soft-hearted will find their relationship unrealistic. At last, this fairy-tale-like story lacks the climax or a dramatic moment which would render the movie unforgettable.

Hence, Local color is not a masterpiece, but it would be a sin to call it a killing-time movie. If nothing else, it is certainly worth watching for those of you who like and follow art, believe in your aspirations and pursue your passions in order to fulfill your dreams. So, “do not let anyone ever talk you out of what you wanna do and what you wanna be.”

Mária Slezáková