A philosophical study in the relationship between the dead artists of Paris’s Père-Lachaise cemetery and their visitors and keepers, veteran documentarian Heddy Honigmann’s Forever contemplates both buried celebrities and the relatively obscure in its musing on eternity. Forever achieves something more resonant than a Solemn Affirmation of the Immortal Spirit of Art by virtue of Honigmann’s instinct and sensitivity as an interviewer; circulating through the cemetery, she patiently extracts often staggeringly tragic-poetic backstory from its living denizens. The interviews are done in restive, gently penetrating close-ups that, matched with their subject’s self-revelations, draw the beauty of each speaker to the surface. A Japanese pianist discusses the connection she finds to her deceased father through playing Chopin; a Korean tourist ruminates on Proust in his untranslated native tongue; an Iranian cab driver sings tribute over the grave of Persian author Sadegh Hedayat (whose works, in a recent cultural purge, were withdrawn from publication in Iran). The ambient camera work can be obvious in groping for the beauty of moldering pathos (not for nothing are cemeteries the classic go-to for amateur photographers), but interludes of the sublime and unexpected are never far off.
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