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By Rory L. Aronsky | April 8, 2004

“Invisible Mountains” focuses on the frustration and inspiration of an artist to such an extent, that creative types who are not painters may very well find themselves nodding their heads in agreement at what’s said and also with the act of finding inspiration wherever possible.
Paul Weil (Shane Callahan), like a lot of artists both present and past, known and unknown, is having major artistic block. He can’t bring himself to put brush and paint to canvas and refuses to do it just for the sake of a commission that a woman named Molly (Karen Carbone) has already given him. In a way, he’s reminiscent of Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead” in that he won’t change his ideals for anything and won’t hurry up to create a painting for someone just because there’s money involved.
This frustrates his family to no end. His brother, Chuck (Lee Matthews) is incredulous that Paul dropped out of a prestigious art school one semester before he could graduate. Chuck is a feet-flat-on-the-ground realist who’s angry that his brother’s ambitions aren’t “normal”. Paul’s father, John (Mark Schwartz) can’t relate to his son one bit. He can’t find anything they have in common and is just relegated to watching. Claire (Susan Moses) takes action on her son. She has been patient enough with Paul through many of his endeavors, but this is not cutting it for her. In her mind, accepting a commission and not delivering on time or following what the client wants (Molly wants a red-and-green painting and Paul doesn’t use red and green), is ridiculous. After finding that he has not created the painting he was supposed to do, Claire tells Paul to find a job.
Threaded throughout these scenes are Paul’s attempts at trying to fire up his creative energy. He points his finger in the air and tries to trace the outline of a building, which is accompanied by an actual black line, which soon snakes away. One inspiring sequence has him seeing a spider’s web in the sky and with the squiggly lines that he creates, they eventually form the inner parts of that web. It’s not often that many films will visually show the artist’s mind at work when merely viewing the sky and surrounding areas.
One of the finer characters in “Invisible Mountains” is Dr. Crow (Lucy Bell Sellers), who is an advisor to Paul, trying to push him to do what he can. She believes that it’s time for him to start painting again, but she doesn’t push him to do so. All she does is nudge and their scenes together are nicely handled, reminding me of Professor Taub (Viveca Lindfors) in “The Sure Thing”, because I wish people like Dr. Crow and Taub existed in the classes I take. They are truly dedicated people who want to see their students succeed, but realize what must be done in order for them to achieve their best.
The second half of the film comes along with Paul’s arrival at the Mix-Master Café. The prices aren’t too friendly, and Paul doesn’t have that much on him. However, his luck changes a little when he flips to the last page of the menu and finds information on Gary (David Gosnell), the chef who works at the café. He meets Gary and as it turns out, they know each other from a long while back. Conveniently, the dishwasher recently quit, so Gary puts Paul right in that spot. This leads Paul into getting to know Sam (Myra Bazell) and soon turning back on the track that’ll hopefully put him back into a painting mood.
The script for this movie can’t easily be shaken because it’s so maturely written. The temptation could have easily risen to make Paul this eccentric artist with a fetish for grated cheese and sock puppets. But director, writer, and animator Richard Hoffman realizes that Paul can represent any number of creative types out there struggling to find their vision and voice. He wonders how loud we have to scream before we’re noticed and how long it takes just to make a snippet of a living off of being artists of all types. Hoffman doesn’t rush his actors into making a scene more dramatic or a little more light-hearted, especially in the scene where Paul, Gary, and Max (Sam Schneider) go to a bar to get completely wasted. Hoffman just takes his time with DP Thomas Schnaidt to watch these men kick back and have a good time. Sometimes that’s needed in a world that’s hard enough to crash through, and it’s a well-played scene.
“Invisible Mountains” should be seen by sculptors, writers, poets, painters, musicians, and all others who strive to make their lives and others rich with their own creations. Granted it’s hard work and it can be so damn hard to try again and again, but people like Paul show that you’ve got to do it for yourself first before attempting to show others.

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