by Richard von Busack
San Jose’s internationally famous Psycho Donuts has a cameo in Of Two Minds (playing Sep 1 at 7pm at the United Film Festival in San Francisco at the Roxie Theater). Directors Doug Blush and Lisa Klein (Wordplay) interview Jordan Zweigoron, self-styled “Chief Psycho” at the shop, during its peak moment of controversy. On camera is “Samantha,” a local student who is both a diagnosed bi-polar and a fancier of the zany pastries. She says she finds nothing offensive about the idea of a place selling “Split-Personality Donuts.” Meanwhile, protesters picket outside.
Bi-polarity sufferers who wrestled, and sometimes lost their lives (as did Klein’s sister Lisa) are recorded or remembered here. Subjects include Philadelphia Weekly columnist and “public crazy person” Liz Spikol of Philadelphia, whose first descent was triggered by being raped. Artist Carlton Davis (seem facing his artwork) an architect who helped design stations for the LA Metro, recounts his time in the lower depths, smoking crack and dressing like a woman whom he called "Carlotta". (The heroism of his wife Ginger in sticking with him during these spells is touching.) Cheri Keating, tattooed make-up artist, tells of her constant moves and job switches; she complains of medication that not only costs $600 a month but chases her inspirations away. The problem of the American health system complicates matters. Public free-clinics are deluged. And at the time of filming, insurance companies warded off customers who have this particular pre-existing conditions.
You get something out of maladies, occasionally: the exalted slender body of the fashion model is a tribute to romantic Camille and all the other consumptives. You see here the same scintillation and charm here that’s in eccentrics, flamboyants, and fervent polysexual maniacs. And these interviewees have compelling monologues of the extremes to which their illness took them.
The question: are bipolars are over-represented in the arts, or does Of Two Minds over-represent artists as a way of making the problem sympathetic? Bi-polars can be nice people, yes, but the really badly afflicted street wraiths are notable by their absence here. But the documentary subscribes to no dogmas, preferring neither meds nor nutritional solutions as a cure. And then there’s the passing comment of David Yen, an actor from Santa Rosa, who illustrates bi-polarism with a quote by Umberto Eco on the subject of a more common derangement, love: the world would be a more peaceful place without it…and more boring.