REVIEW Jeremiah Zagar’s feature has a subject that’s not just close to home, it’s in his home: father Isaiah is an eccentric artist who’s created extraordinary mosaics covering myriad walls, rooms, and several entire buildings in Philadelphia. Julia, his wife of 43 years, views herself as the necessary "reality base" to his "crazy, self-absorbed but amiable … rare flower." Isaiah is a bit of an exhibitionist, his art a "journal of my life" that might easily embarrass family members less accustomed to his idiosyncracies. His past encompasses childhood molestation and institutionalization, while the present is imperiled by "delusions of grandeur." During the several years Jeremiah shot this documentary at first intended as a simple tribute to a very creative parent Isaiah upset the family’s long-term yet still very delicate balance by springing a major crisis. On top of that, the filmmaker’s brother moves back in, his marriage collapsed and substance-abuse problems evident to all. The Zagars aren’t anybody’s idea of a standard-issue nuclear unit, but this quietly engaging portrait transcends train-wreck fascination because for all their quirks, they are functional close, loving, and supportive. Also, because Isaiah’s epic mosaics of tile, paint, and embedded detritus are so remarkable, you’ll want to book the next flight to Philly to see them first-hand.
IN A DREAM opens Fri/17 at the Roxie. See Rep Clock.