Films: William Kurelek's The Maze

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William Kurelek's The Maze

William Kurelek's The Maze

USA, 2011, 64 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Art/Filmmaking, Biographical, Documentary
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: David Grubin, Robert M. Young
Producer: Nick Young, Zack Young
Cinematographer: Robert M. Young
Principal Cast: William Kurelek

In 1970, the famously disturbed Canadian painter William Kurelek was the subject of a half-hour documentary by Robert M. Young (Alambrista!, The Plot Against Harry). Using recently discovered additional footage, Young and collaborator David Grubin, working with Young’s sons Nick and Zack, have expanded it to full length. The painter, who died in 1977 at age 50, now has a cinematic commemoration worthy of him and his work.

Born to stern Ukrainian immigrants on a hardscrabble farm in Alberta, young William was never a boy for tractor, barn, or hockey rink—a failing his tyrannical father never forgave. Ridiculed at home and bullied at school, he took refuge in drawing—and in the dungeon of his own mind. By the time William had graduated from college and fled to England in 1952, he’d become suicidal and, when admitted to a mental hospital, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The next year he painted Maze, a terrifying map of fear and distress that combines Bosch, Van Gogh (one of his heroes), and the manual of mental disorders. “It is the inside of my skull,” Kurulek told Young. A decade later, it was cover art for the 1981 Van Halen album Fair Warning.

Young's expanded film reveals the brilliant, insecure, soft-spoken artist through his words and those of his family as well as clinicians' assessments and the grotesque images of his early work—cruelly isolated thinkers, bloody-fanged serpents, screaming skulls. But this story has a happy ending of sorts: in 1957, Kurulek embraced Roman Catholicism, came to see God as, well, his real Father, and for 20 years created radically beautiful religious art. He also married and had children. Says the priest who oversaw his conversion: “I believe he is a saint.”
—BILL GALLO

Sponsored by Colorado Lawyers for the Arts

In cooperation with Allied Jewish Apartments Senior Housing Community

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