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He chose two young architects that would come to change contemporary architecture. Jim Stewart is the most published mathematician since Euclid, a concert level violinist, calculus professor, philanthropist, and gay rights activist. He is a true polymath, a modern day renaissance man. He had a bold vision and the conviction to follow through. It took almost ten years to realize his dream, Integral House, which was completed in 2009.
Director: Joseph Clement
Review by Gilbert Seah
The human subject of INTEGRAL MAN is Jim Stewart, the most published mathematician since Euclid, a man of unparalleled ambition. The film introduces the man, through voiceover for a full 10 minutes describing his two sides. The first is the classical, exact side where the Mathematics part lies and the second the modern dreamer and dynamic designer.
The film can be divided into 3 segments though the segments are overlapped. One is devoted to Jim Stewart the man. He is shown as a Mathematician, an architect and a music lover. The second shows the design of the house, before, during and after its construction – a magnificent piece of work. The third integrates his love of music (Stewart plays the violin) into the two segments.
Stewart’s books on Calculus (a branch of Mathematics lots of students shudder from) are sold the world over. Stewart goes on books tours around the world including China, signing his books for student and professors alike. Stewart also sets out to create one of the most renowned pieces of residential architecture in North America and succeeded, demonstrating the perfect match between client and architect. Director Clement charts the bond between architect and client with long meetings held between the two. Stewart interviewed many architects before settling with the chosen one. Using time lapse photography, Clement details the landscape of the plot from demolition of the old house, to the barren land to the outer shell to the completion of the house. This residence, overlooking a ravine in Rosedale, Toronto is grand and exhibits decadence beyond comprehension. Clement uses his camera to take the audience on an extended tour of the home, from the top to below. The most fascinating piece of structure is the central staircase, made of metal, and which took a full 3 months on install. The material to be shipped from Europe to Nova Scotia to be moulded in Toronto before installation. The residence is appropriately named Integral House.
An important point in the film, that is mentioned by Stewart himself is that all the wealth is not from luck but from hard, dedicated work. Stewart spent 7 years, working 15 hour full days only taking half a day off at Christmas to write his Calculus books.
Besides Calculus and Architecture, Stewart is a man of music – a true music lover. His house was designed to exhibit concerts, which were conducted time and again for his own benefit and for charity foundations. The film showcases a few of these with music playing while the guests in evening cocktail dress applaud and drink wine.
Clement omits Stewart’s background (it would be good to know where he inherited his artistic and mathematical genes from) but does mention his sexual orientation.
Unbeknownst to Jim however, an unexpected turn of events is set to unfold. The film takes this turn (which will not be revealed in this review) during the last 10 minutes. and brings the film neatly to its conclusion.
(INTEGRAL MAN premiered at Hot Docs and opens this week in Toronto.)
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