RAFF Review: 'Patron Saint'

Patron Saint
(Canada, 71 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Kainer
Various interviewees in the documentary Patron Saint refer to subject Dr. Janusz Dukszta as “vain.” Other interviewees call him “eccentric,” “narcissistic,” “a force,” "a patron of the arts," and “a closet altruist.” A man such as Dr. Dukszta embodies the facets of all these characteristics: when one has almost one hundred portraits of oneself painted over fifty years, one needs to be a little bit crazy, a little bit vain, and a little bit passionate about supporting the arts.

Patron Saint paints its own portrait of Dr. Dukszta as director Michael Kainer explores the life of the man whose collection of art about himself receives its own exhibition at the gallery at the University of Toronto. This collection is a novelty for sure, but it’s also a peculiar testament to the range of talent in the Toronto fine arts scene. Just look at how differently the artists approach the same subject. See Dr. Dukszta as a cubist figure; see him as a divine figure. See him as a painting; see him as a statue. Even see him as one statue or see him as a statue in a collection of twenty-seven statues. There are many sides and shades to this one man.

The film looks at many of the paintings of Dr. Dukszta within his own archive as he explains the motivation behind so many of these portraits. Patron Saint looks at the facets of Dr. Dukszta’s character that each painting draws out—his background, religious/spiritual beliefs, political efforts, etc—and helps better understand the subject through his art. The film frequently remains respectful (at times almost reverential) as it explores the dimensions of Dukszta's character, but Kainer smartly uses the art to reveal aspects of character that the subject himself is keen to explore and reveal.

Unlike the wonderful pop art of Andy Warhol, though, Patron Saint shows that repetition doesn’t necessarily deconstruct this subject. If anything, the range of portraits only makes Dr. Dukszta more intriguing and personable. He’s quite the character!

The artists themselves add their voices to the mix and explain the inspiration they find in each portrait. Some of them actually have several pieces in the Dukszta collection, so it’s a marvel to see how even the same artist approaches the same face so differently. The various voices also show that Dr. Dukszta’s fascination with his own image serves the Toronto art community well, for his devotion to the arts frequently encourages him to seek out new artists and gamble on unproven talents. This patronage in turn supports and motivates many emerging artists within the scene. Call it egotism or altruism, but a reliable patron of the arts is nothing but a good stroke for the community.

Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

Patron Saint screens at the Reel Artists Film Festival in Toronto on Saturday, March 28 at 5:30 pm at TIFF Lightbox.
Director Michael Kainer will introduce the film and moderate a panel discussion with artists Rae Johnson, Phil Richards, Andy Fabo and Max Streicher. Subject Janusz Dukszta will also be in attendance.

Please visit http://canadianart.ca/raff/toronto-patron-saint/ for more information.