In a Dream

"Excellent"

In a Dream Review


Visual artist Isaiah Zagar lives on the delicate border between joy and insanity. The mosaic master of Philadelphia, now in his late 60s, offers a dose of philosophy with calm insight -- and then his words begin to twist away and practically disintegrate. When we meet Isaiah in son Jeremiah Zagar's finely tuned documentary In a Dream, he's asked if he wants a drink of water. After a pause, he declines and says he'll have a boiled egg instead. Huh? Is this the kind of typical brain activity living in a brilliant artist?

Well, an obsessive artist for sure, and the younger Zagar makes that clear from the get-go, introducing his dad's work with a glorious tracking shot showing off Philadelphia buildings Isaiah has covered with his larger-than-life pop-art mosaics. Isaiah stands quietly as Jeremiah's camera smoothly pulls away from him, leaving the elder Zagar dwarfed by his work, as we contemplate the overwhelming, countless hours such work demands.

That particular style is one element that sets In a Dream apart from other famous-father documentaries (Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect and Celia Maysles' Wild Blue Yonder come to mind). Jeremiah Zagar is a slick, literate filmmaker, embracing a visual language as much as his dad might. Combining thoughtful motion with rapid, click-clack editing, Zagar's work feels like a cool big-budget TV commercial crossed with the chaos of Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation.

But there's a lot more here than just style. At the center is the inimitable Zagar, an aging man with an abusive past and who tangles with depression, and a life-affirming relationship with wife Julia. Their decades-long marriage is the narrative hub of the film -- they meet, bring their sons into the world, and dedicate their lives to art and each other. But Isaiah has an ugly secret, and son Jeremiah is Johnny-on-the-spot to capture the revelation, as well as the painful situation leading up to it.

According to press notes, Jeremiah spent roughly 16 hours shooting that particular day, and hated himself "for every minute of it." His camera watches as his eccentric family's structure begins to splinter, and we're left feeling as unsure as the Zagars must have felt. Surrounding them in their home is Isaiah's meticulous work, an appropriately multi-layered collection of smashed glass and ceramic, a jagged jigsaw puzzle. Organized, reflective, broken.

Just when we think we might understand Isaiah Zagar -- his troubles are shared by many out there, certainly -- the ex-hippie spurts out something outlandish. When he describes the relationship he has with his own excrement, it's time to pack up reality and acknowledge this is a pained man who may not have full control of his own sanity.

Like any incisive documentary filmmaker, Jeremiah is able to record the difficult and extract the unexpected. It's a skill tougher than it seems, and keeps both audience and subjects on their toes. During an early interview, Isaiah blurts out information about a suicide attempt from roughly 40 years earlier. When his son gently digs deeper, dad admits he didn't expect such a grave fact would appear so early in the process.

Zagar's strong approach is coupled with that zinger of a visual style (including original animation, by the way), and some spooky music by a pair of innovative guys called The Books. The whole thing is an artistic celebration of sorts -- with the emotional pain that can come with dedication, and maybe a little madness.



In a Dream

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 8th March 2008

Distributed by: International Film Circuit

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jeremiah Zagar

Producer: Jeremy Yaches

Starring: Isaiah Zagar as Himself, Julia Zagar as Herself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.