I can’t recall a movie where eccentricity borders on the verge of gruesome, edgy, slightly comedic horror the way “The Painting” does. The feature film debuting on Saturday, March 21, at the Garden State Film Festival, exemplifies when greed takes over one’s soul to the point of madness. The slightly twisted plot, interwoven with the occult makes this film a “must see” upon its release.
The lead, Edward Lexington (Robert Homer Mollohan), lives in the shadow of his father’s legacy. He is a talentless painter, always trying to usurp the masterful natural talent of his British impressionist father, Alfonso Lexington (Ronnie Marmo), by unscrupulously assimilating the art of others under his own name, making a fortune. When the usefulness of an artistic understudy expires, so does their life, under his charge.
Funding the crazy crusade is the enamored Cassandra (Merilee Brasch), with the hopes that her millions in painting purchases, despite the reservations of her husband, Hollace, (Henry Hereford) of Edward's presumably authentic artistry, will spur a multitude of collectors to buy more of Edward’s diabolical signature-laden stolen paintings and make both of them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
The fatal flaw that Edward makes is when he hires a homeless voodoo priestess, Marie Lavaux (Ivet Corvea), to paint for him. She doesn’t just paint, but she taps into the spiritual forces that possess Sven’s (Caleb Lane) last painting of Edward’s portrait. As Edward becomes more obsessed and possessed with securing his name in the art world, both “The Painting” and Edward change, exhibiting grotesque monstrous characteristics representing the gory murderous path he’s taken.
Interestingly enough, Ivet Corvea, who portrayed the occult priestess has a background in voodoo herself! Director/Producer/Writer Robert Rothbard related, “Ivet Corvea, who played Marie Lavaux, knew firsthand about voodoo, and brought an authentic flair to the role. Sally Lamb, (Executive Producer/Writer) and her team created the authentic voodoo props. It seemed fitting that a homeless voodoo lady would bring down a wealthy psychopath.”
“Voodoo has a toe in faith; witchcraft less so. I like pitting them against one another.” commented Rothbard on his selection of a less commonly used destructor of his twisted protagonist.
“This is my first time playing a voodoo priestess. I was so excited when Robert Rothbard offered me the role, because as he mentioned, I have some knowledge of the practice. Growing up in Cuba, I lived near a Santera, which is the name used in Cuba. I was able to attend several ceremonies and was always drawn to the practice. Then later on when I lived in New Orleans, my knowledge expanded tremendously and specifically with the Creole influence…particularly everything that had to do with Marie Lavaux,” shared Corvea about the authenticity she gave to the role.
As she wove her magic on screen, she got to see the results of her “spells” on set. Corvea’s favorite moment was when Sven (a newly murdered artist), rises from the grave.
Corvea told me that her character cross-over, into real life, if you will, was when, “Robert Rothbard was inspired that I, too, get in on the floor and start chanting, since it was because of my character's magic that it was all happening. I loved that so much! …just jump in and play; also, I must say Caleb Lane, the actor, was so wonderful. I loved the whole cast!”
What’s even more interesting is that the occult influenced Rothbard’s development of the story, too. Do you believe in ghosts? He does:
“I’ve had several occasions with ghosts and believe in them. I believe that the dead can communicate with the living, and in our movie Alfonso Lexington (Ronnie Marmo) finds his opening to tell Debby (Allexa D’Alessio) his side of the story, which turns out to be the truth in order to free his soul. As far as comedy, that seems to invade everything I’ve ever written. It’s my style…walk a fine line between keeping the audience invested in your story and making them laugh. Maybe easier now, lots of directors blending different styles,” explains Rothbard.
His writing-producing partner, Sally Lamb, also inspired “The Painting”.
“…when I told her I wanted to make a horror genre film [she] responded with ‘I’ve always wanted to make a horror film called ‘The Painting’.’ I liked the title, ambiguous yet mysterious… we proceeded to spitball the story one afternoon.”
The entire story was written in about two weeks, cast quickly, and shot in 11 days. The film spent 11 months in post-production, which brings us to this point, where the public gets to view the entire film for the first time at the Garden State Film Festival this weekend.
While it may seem that the horror genre is a departure from the norm for director/producer Robert Rothbard, it’s actually a return to his beginnings.
“My very first script was a horror script – ironic, but I never finished it… too graphic and horrible… didn’t really know what I was doing. I learned to write by trial and error…began to understand that it was a passion for story that made me get out of bed and stay up late to write. Never really understood all the technical stuff, but I learned that too - second nature now,” says Rothbard.
The painting itself, a self-portrait of Edward, is not first revealed to the audience and later transforms into one of the more grotesque elements. The unveiling to Edward alone is Mollohan’s favorite scene from the movie.
“My favorite… is when Edward discovers Sven's (Caleb Lane) "self-portrait" of Edward on the balcony. It was the most difficult moment in the film to create as an actor, and I love that Mr. Rothbard doesn't show the painting until later in the film, so it
He also admits that becoming a monster “was just awesome.”
In addition to the very imaginative plot, the make-up and costuming of the cast was equally impressive and suited the gothic décor of the Lexington mansion which only enhanced the Grand Guignol film style.
For those familiar with Mollohan’s work, you’ll recognize right away that he’s not a native Brit but yet pulls off a very convincing British accent, and he had this to say about it:
“It was difficult to stay in character with a British accent. To make it easier, Joe Dalo stayed in character with his accent, and I did the same. I also had a dialect coach, Henry Hereford, who is actually in the film, and plays the hilarious Hollace. He's so damn funny! I've worked with Henry in the theatre but this is the first time we've been able to do a film together. After breaking the dialogue down phonetically, we worked it relentlessly, and I'm a big fan of Downton Abbey, so perhaps that helped, as well. I hope I did it justice.”
All original artwork was featured in the film, and some is for sale! Producer Sally Lamb is one of the featured artists whose paintings can be seen in some of the gallery scenes. Actress Ivet Corvea also had several of her paintings on screen.
“I am so proud that one of my paintings was featured in the film! I thought the art was a powerful part of the movie and the talent showcased was amazing. Part of my preparation for the character was to create some art... I imagined how she would be able to paint with little to no supplies... It was a lot of fun to dive in and create. I didn't use any paint brushes, just my hands. I made 7 pieces as Marie Lavaux. I gave some of the pieces to my friends, as it is a tradition with me to always give away my paintings. I did however keep a couple for myself; they are now hanging on my wall,” said Corvea.
Artwork by Cheryl Kline is for sale at the Kline Academy of Fine Art (www.klineacademy.com), located at 3264 Motor Ave, LA 90034 (310) 927-2436.
Artist Lola del Fresno has pieces for sale, as well. Inquire at www.loladelfresno.com (310) 428-0667
To attend the screening of “The Painting” (8:30pm, Saturday, March 21 at Claridge Hall) and many other diverse and engaging films at the Garden State Film Festival (3/19 – 3/22) in Atlantic City, NJ, visit gsff.org for purchasing event passes and tickets.
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TheLadyinRedBlog will be covering red carpet events, cocktail parties, after parties, and the awards dinner at the Garden State Film Festival. Look for updates here on TheLadyinRedBlog.com and
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