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Produced by Stephen Smith and Richard Bond;
directed by Richard Bond
Bondfast Productions, 1993. VHS cassette, 23 min., $99.95
Distributed by Lynx Images Releasing.

Subject Headings:
Angel, Michael John.
Painters, Canadian-Italy.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up

Reviewed by Frances Daw Bergles

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Part documentary and part travelogue, The Road to Castagno is a portrait of a Canadian portraitist in his adopted landscape. Michael John Angel is a classically trained painter who is represented in the National Gallery's collection. He studied in Florence in the 1960s and returned to live and work in Italy in 1989. Michelangelo is both his namesake and his mentor. Angel was inspired to become a painter at the age of seven when he first saw pictures of the Judgement from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The village of Castagno d'Andrea in the remote mountains of northern Tuscany is lovingly photographed in warm tones that evoke Renaissance images. Angel first visited the village when he went there in 1957 as an apprentice to his teacher, who was comissioned to paint a crucifix in the church commemorating the 500th anniversary of the town's most famous son, the painter Andre del Castagno. The video shows Angel's own work in progress, a commissioned mural in the same church that will eventually include more than 100 figures, all portraits of the villagers.

We are shown John Angel working on initial portraits in his studio and painting en plein air. The indoor shots give scope to a discussion of the art of painting and portraiture, and the outdoor shots allow exploration of the intriguing, timeless countryside. Other than one conversation, the only voice beside that of Angel's is that of the local priest, who gives us a brief history of the town starting with its relocation in 1335 when a rock slide from Mount Falterona covered the town.

The video has some lovely production values. The cinematography is very good. Dissolves are used a great deal first to introduce the painter into the landscape and to move from one portrait to another. The music, plucked and strummed strings, is highly appropriate. The subjects, both the painter and the landscape, hold attention.

Frances Daw Bergles is the librarian at Mendal Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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