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ALCHEMY (TV)(director/writer: Suzanne Myers; cinematographer: Tami Reiker; editors: Cecily Rhett/Laurie Shearing; music: Ira Kaplan; cast: Rya Kihlstedt (Louisa Garrison), Jeff Webster (Duncan), D.V. DeVincentis (Ethan), Marian Quinn (Jane), Erica Chanoy (Kitty), Jorja Fox (Josie), Maggie Estep (Justine); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Kelly Forsythe/Sarah Vogel; 1995)
“Fascinating and original.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Suzanne Myers’ indie debut film Alchemy is a finely drawn meditative piece divided into three chapters: “Charity”, “Faith”, and “Hope”. It follows the life of the moody artist Louisa Garrison (Rya Kihlstedt), who makes small boxes filled with found objects and, also, translates ancient Russian fairy tales. The sweet heroine is on a mind-trip to transform her base life to its highest possibility (hence the film’s title of Alchemy, referring to the ancient seers and their mystical practice). Louisa has just suffered from the loss of a loved one and will go on an inward journey to restore herself. Myers tells it like a fairy tale that is overtly feminist in spirit, at times offering magical alchemy moments, and always delicately layed out. The pleasingly warm color tone is imbued with a frenzy of brownish and bluish hues much like those used in the palette of the romantic German painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840).

In the first vignette, Louisa works in a bookstore. She breaks up with her painter boyfriend Ethan because he’s two-timing her with his ex-girlfriend Kitty, something he denies. Louisa meets Kitty after she learns Ethan died in an auto accident. Offering the grieving Kitty her sympathy, she ends up befriending her fellow artist and learns that Kitty did not know that Louisa was seeing Ethan.

In the second vignette, Louisa goes back to her country home to visit her perfect older lesbian sister Jane, who despite living a healthy organic life has just learned that she has cancer. While the kindly Jane loves everyone in her small community and everyone loves her, she treats her sister coldly and distantly for no apparent reason.

In the last vignette, Louisa seeks isolation and gets a grant to stay in a remote artists’ colony to do her boxes without any distractions. Scottish bookstore clerk Duncan, from the same bookstore she worked, quits his job and breaks the colony’s rules by secretly staying in her cottage, as Louisa wrestles with her love for work over romance.

It’s all fascinating and original, a film that revels in its precise and witty dialogue and the possibility of finding love in both one’s work and life.

REVIEWED ON 12/16/2004 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”