Arts Review

Integral Man, A Film Review by Marc Glassman

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Integral Man
Joseph Clement, director, writer and co-producer w/Sarah Keenlyside
Starring: Jim Stewart

Joseph Clement’s elegant and beautifully shot documentary feature Integral Man is a wonderfully conceived tribute to mathematician, violinist and LGBTQ activist Jim Stewart. A loner and a genius, Stewart was able to create a fitting home for his senior years, by working with the visionary duo of architects Howard Sutcliffe and Brigitte Shim. They responded perfectly to his demand to create a house that incorporated circular walls to approximate the integral symbol while designing a fine concert hall, which can seat 150 people, in the first floor of the home.

Stewart made an outrageous amount of money writing calculus textbooks. It’s crazy but true: his sales topped millions of dollars annually. Stewart’s house cost millions but it’s worth it, aesthetically—and he could afford it. Clement’s film is at its best as the camera slowly circles the subtle shapes and forms of the inside of the building. The expression “it’s a masterpiece,” can be overdone but not in this case. Viewers of Integral Man will be awestruck by the design and style of Stewart’s home.

Mathematics is essential to architecture and it certainly helps the reading of musical scores. Stewart loved music and played violin in the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. The concert hall was always an essential element of Stewart’s home and it’s not surprising to note that Philip Glass and Steve Reich both performed private concerts there. It’s in the hall, where Stewart staged his own wake, after he was diagnosed with a blood cancer, multiple myeloma. Measha Brueggergosman was the star of an amazing musical night, which featured a host of wonderful performances. It’s the highlight of the film and Clement appropriately includes verbal tributes to this math professor (at McMaster), writer and musician.

Watching Integral Man, one is struck by Stewart’s accomplishments including his massive support for the LGBTQ community but it’s also clear that he spent a lot of time alone. Viewers of Joseph Clement’s film will be moved Stewart’s life and ultimate accomplishment, his house. Will his home become integrated into Toronto’s cultural community or become a strange mega-mansion in Rosedale? Will Jim Stewart legacy survive? Only time will tell but one thing is certain: this wonderful doc will endure as a statement about a unique, gifted individual.

Click here for more film reviews from Marc Glassman.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

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