At the time, the film was relatively early-on in it's initial festival run. I was new to Charlottesville and the VA Film Festival (by which I have become increasingly impressed), but I was aware of Berliner through some of his earlier films, thanks to one of my favorite film professors/friend, which gratefully drew me to the screening. The film has since received relatively wide critical acclaim, though still remains somewhat obscure. It is now promoted, distributed and exhibited through HBO Documentaries (well deserved and hopefully opens a wide audience).
Extraordinary filmmaking and still resonating in my head. An honest, personal profile, not only of the life of a brilliant man, Honig (and the duality of that brilliance), in the depths of Alzheimer's, but of life in general. Alzheimer's is rarely mentioned, but echoes through the film in abstract subtle trembles that are both haunting and oddly elating in life-affirmation. Truly unique, beautiful piece of work and experience, for the filmmaker and for us. The most effective, expansive and broadly reflective documentary that I have seen in years. Highly recommended, to say the least.
Continue reading for complete Synopsis, Review and Trailer.
"Sometime in the new millennium, Edwin Honig—the distinguished poet, translator, critic and university professor—began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which gradually but inexorably brought on the loss of his memory, command of language and relation to the past. Filmmaker Alan Berliner—for whom Honig was a cousin, a friend and a mentor—documented their meetings over five years; his new film chronicles the steady decline of Honig’s mind and body, but also the strength and stamina of his spirit, as well as his innate charm and wonderfully playful way with words and sounds. Occasional moments of lucidity offer an insight as to the ways in which Honig attempts to make sense out of what is happening to him. First Cousin Once Removed is an unflinching essay on the fragility of being human, and a stark reminder of the profound role that memory plays in all of our lives."