For decades, Isaiah Zagar has been transforming Philadelphia into a colorful, vibrant mosaic, starting with every inch of his home and moving outward. He’s an amazing artist, full of great talent. But if history teaches us anything, we know that behind creativity lay fallibility.
The extent of the man’s fallibility, however, is astonishing, as captured in the documentary “In a Dream.” That it’s directed by his son Jeremiah makes it even more remarkable. Isaiah confesses things most people won’t tell their own children, camera or otherwise, but he presents himself naked “ both literally and figuratively “ for a no-doors-closed examination of his life and art, which are intertwined to a fault.
The love of Isaiah’s life is his longtime wife, Julia, who’s stood by her man through everything, including bouts of insanity, topped by him trying to pull off his own genitals. That makes his betrayal of her more painful than normal. Isaiah’s roller-coaster life also extends to his eldest son, Ezekiel, who is undergoing the breakup of his own marriage by self-medicating.
The entire Zagar is to be commended for participating in this documentary. Others would be embarrassed, but they bravely put themselves under the microscope. Jeremiah isn’t out to crucify his parents, but simply present them as they are, and his film achieves a rare poetry because of it.
It lacks a climactic end, but in this case, that’s kind of a good thing.