It’s gonna be a moody, grey day and weekend. So if you’re looking for a quiet, moody meditation on life and art to match that weather, check out Forever, Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective subject Heddy Honigmann’s poetic look at the artistic souls who visit Paris’s famous Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.
That famous site is the resting ground for some of the world’s most famous artists, including Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Maria Callas, Amadeo Modigliani, Frederic Chopin, Simone Signoret, and, of course, Jim Morrison.
Honigmann focuses her camera on a dozen or so people who find solace in visiting these graves. Things start out simply enough, with a Japanese pianist who loves Chopin.
Later subjects are less predictable: an exiled Iranian visits the grave of his countryman, writer, Sadegh Hedayat, and when Honigmann interviews him, he offers up a few surprises; a man from South Korea admits he read all of Proust’s A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu over 10 years; a Frenchman admits he hated Proust at 20, discovered him at 35 and then made a comic book of Recherche in middle-age; another man talks about how Modigliani helped him in his own work (you’ll never guess what he does for a living).
Some of Honigmann’s unexpected choices don’t quite pay off. We follow a group of blind people listening to Diabolique to explain the power of Signoret. And she’s a bit of an elitist by not giving much time to the dearly departed Doors member and his rabid fans – except for a teaser near the beginning.
Oddly, some of the most moving parts concern people mourning those who weren’t even that famous. There’s a heartbreaking scene about a young poet who died young and whose grave is crumbling; there’s another about a young chanson singer rediscovered by a passerby. And the interview of a woman who found love late in life and then lost it is pure poetry.
It’s hard to imagine a similar film made about, say, Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The wonderful thing is that this film itself should inspire hundreds or maybe even thousands of people to dig into archives, libraries, and museums to seek out these artists.
Forever screens tonight (Friday, April 27) at 9:30 pm, at the Isabel Bader, and Saturday (April 28), 5:15 pm, at the ROM.