Sunday, March 29, 2015

RAFF 2015 Film Review- Patron Saint

Janusz Dukszta lives in a small apartment in Toronto. He came to Toronto from Poland in 1959 then studies to become a Psychiatrist. He also served as the NDP member from Parkdale at the Provincial Legislature from 1971 to 1981. But the most remarkable fact about Dukszta is that he is a large contributor to the Toronto Art Scene having hundreds of pieces crammed into his Toronto apartment. The unusual thing is that all of them are commissions and just about all are of his likeness.

The film opens with a 2010 show at the University of Toronto Art Centre entitled Portraits of a Patron. The show brought Dukszta's pieces out of hiding from his Apartment and into the public eye.  Among his collection are 89 self portraits and several sculptures. The sculptures tend to mainly be of his head in different sizes of varied material including stone, granite and bronze.  The question one has to ask is the purpose.  Is it ego, is it narcissism or is Dukszta simply an eccentric individual with no family to carry on his linage so he has done so through Art.

First time director Michael Kainer's documentary takes the viewer into Janusz Dukstza's world. The bowels of his apartment are put on display and are the thoughts and reflection of the Artists that have produced pieces for the collection. The camera follows Dukszta back to Poland where his early memories were formed first during the Russian/Germany split of the country followed by the German occupation. Dukszta was witness to the removal of the Jewish residents followed by the killing of dissidents then anyone with any standing in the community that might threaten Nazi rule. The effect on Dukstza of his return to Poland could have been explored further in the piece.

The interviews with the artist themselves is the strength of the film. They speak to the fact that Dukszta would work with young artists that were just starting out. Therefore a commission meant validation of their work.  Dunkszta would also encourage them to be bold and take chances which helped with their confidence, enhanced their reputation and the money was a  good base for them to advance their carriers.  Painter Phil Richards did the most pieces in the Dunkszta collection dating back to his first collaboration with the Patron in 1971. He would often exchange travel for his services instead of money. Richards has gone on to produce pieces all over the world including a 2010 Royal Commission to paint a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Max Streicher a sculpture and installation artist completed multiple works for Dukszta including a massive bronzed head.

The overflowing personality and humour of Dukszta drives the narrative. In one particularly funny scene he spots a fluorescent green city tram when back in Krakow and shouts nice colour then looks at his tie that happens to be an identical match. The gratefulness of the Artists also shines through in the piece. As Rae Johnson points out she was just starting out when Dukszta asked her to do a portrait she did not yet have a style or voice as an artist and his commission helped to kick start her career.  The narrative could have done more to explore Dukszta passion for Art or the reason why he keeps going or what Dukszta learned about himself as a result of the production.  The volume is evident but the root cause is not pursued by the production.

** 1/2 Out of Four.

Patron Saint | Michael Kainer | Canada | 2014 | 71 Minutes.

Tags; Poland, Toronto, Immigrant, Politician, Art History, Psychiatrist, Baroque, Krakow.

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