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#HotDocs23 Review: Angel Applicant

April 29, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

When Ken Meyer was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that is slowly stretching out his skin and making him appear doll-like, he became fascinated by the work of Paul Klee, a Swiss-German artist who suffered from the same affliction.

In his deeply resonant documentary Angel Applicant, in which he serves as both director and subject, Meyer charts his own deterioration from the disease, with the duel narrative of Klee’s career as an artist, who was exiled from Nazi Germany as part of Hitler’s attack on modern art. Klee’s unique art served as a window into his condition, reflecting the physical changes in his body, and now it’s providing a source of healing for Meyer – a commercial art director – that allows him to come to terms with his own illness.

Anchored by Meyer’s thoughtful voiceover, and several stylistic touches, Angel Applicant does an especially poignant job of bringing these two stories together. Meyer balances showing images of Klee’s paintings onscreen with candid footage that the filmmaker has captured of his own life, including home movie montages that appear to show his young daughter growing up before our eyes.

At just over seventy minutes, Angel Applicant is captivating from start to finish. Meyer’s film becomes a powerful rumination on the importance and vitality of art, as well as a poetic exploration of how two souls from different moments in time can somehow be bound to each other. A beautiful, moving work of art in its own right.

Screenings: Sunday, April 30th, 3:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Friday, May 5th, 5:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 7. Tickets can be purchased here, and the film will also be streaming online across Canada from May 5th to 9th.

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