rendezvous with madness film festival from Thursday (November 10) to November 19, Joseph Workman Theatre (1001 Queen West). Pwyc-$8, opening gala (This Beggar's Description) $25. For schedule, see Indie & Rep Cinema Listings. 416-583-4606, www.rendezvouswithmadness.com.
Apart from films like Proof and A Beautiful Mind, it's rare to see issues related to mental health depicted on the big screen, and that's what makes this fest so refreshing. The gala opener is Pierre Tétrault 's
This Beggar's Description (November 10, 7:30 pm, rating: NNN ). It's a sensitive, moving doc chronicling the life of Tétrault's brother Philip , a Montreal poet, musician and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
A promising athlete as a child, Philip began experiencing mood swings in his early 20s. His extended family, including his daughter, share their conflicted feelings love, guilt, shame, anger with the camera. They want to make sure he's safe, but how much can they take?
Director/writer Tétrault, former artistic director of Young People's Theatre, uses lots of shattered, hazy imagery and some discordant music (by Donald Quan ) for ambience. Songs by Leonard Cohen also add a running commentary, and Cohen himself a long-time admirer of Philip's poetry makes a poignant, understated appearance at the film's end.
While it takes an extended look at Philip's writing, much of which is quite powerful, the film does not tie things up tidily, which feels appropriate.
A rich look at the complexity of mental illness.
Allan King 's Memory For Max, Claire, Ida And Company (November 12, 7:30 pm, rating: NNNN ) is documentary filmmaking at its finest.
Focusing on several residents, their caregivers and families at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, it's a moving examination of one of society's biggest and least understood fears: the bewildering effects of dementia. King looks unflinchingly at the human side of memory loss; there's not one doctor or memory specialist in sight.
Among the remarkable scenes: a woman carries on a conversation with her mother, who doesn't recognize her; a talkative inmate mourns the death of a fellow resident over and over, because she can't remember hearing the news; a woman forgets everything but the title of the song Blue Skies.
As in his earlier film Dying At Grace, King treats his subjects with honesty and affection, and even some humour.
This is one of those rare films that can change how you look at life and how you decide to live it.