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Thursday, November 7, 2013

218 of 1001 Movies: Crumb (1994)

Sadly, it isn't Robert Crumb's drawing talents that make him a good subject of a documentary. Crumb is apart of an odd family, and he himself is a bit of an oddity. The thing is he seems like someone who isn't so likable either. He's very pretentious and seems to hate women. He also didn't seem to like himself too much in this documentary either as he told Terry Zwigoff he didn't really like the documentary. It's interesting to see the artwork, the man behind it, but there is also something quite disturbing as well.

Summary: Robert Crumb is a popular underground comic artist. He prominently paved his way through the 60's and 70's, and even did notable album work for a 70's album. Crumb's life is met with a lot of controversy and in this documentary he opens his life to be viewed by the public. Many who know him are interviewed, including his wife who he has an open marriage with, his mentally ill brothers, Charles and Maxon, and others who admire and despise his work.


Acting: Well hopefully no one is acting, but with any movie there comes some realm of playing it out in some way. I think Robert Crumb is himself in this movie, but he also didn't like the movie. I think seeing yourself in the light that he is portrayed would be difficult to consume. He admits to having something against women, allows his sexual habit of masturbating 5 times a day to be discussed, and lays out a bit about his family that is deeply personal. His brother, Maxon, even admits to molesting women in the past on camera. Also, Charles, who had his own problems with sexuality, not discussed in the movie, went on to commit suicide the year before this movie was released. I also like how the movie includes negative critiques as well of his work.

Filming: Zwigoff does a good job of shooting the movie because he keeps this documentary interesting. The shots are steady but also have  real life vibe that is able to withhold time. You also have an interesting mix of sounds that contribute to the movie feeling alive. Whether it is the city or Crumb listening to an old record it has a memorable vibe.  Another unique aspect was how the comics were shot and then put into the movie to show it almost as if a story was playing out that tied back into Crumb's life.

Plot: The director seems to like to focus on Crumb's dysfunctional family more than anything. It's like he doesn't believe that Crumb's artwork in itself is interesting enough to focus on. Unless Crumb is alluding to the whole family instead of Robert, which I highly doubt. I guess if you want to feel some sort of connection to Crumb then all this movie will do is feel you icky about being interested in his work. The guy has some deep issues against women, so all the women who speak about his uplifting drawings regarding portraying women as real puzzles me. He obviously likes to take jabs at women through his work, and other races. The point is made though that Robert is just showing through his comics what we are all afraid to say. What is heavily focused on and even distracts from Robert are his two brothers. The sisters refused to be interviewed, and I can't say I blame them. His two brothers have mental illnesses, but they also have made some questionable decisions. Overall, the movie lacks in a theme or emotion that really makes a documentary about someone worth watching.

Crumb is insightful about some of the work of Crumb, and his childhood. At least from his point of view. Other family members have refuted his claims. This movie will bring an edginess to comics that you didn't expect and that is can be just as expressive and mean as any other art form out there. Crumb is a great drawer, but there is something about the guy that this movies leaves you not liking.

Rating 7 of 10.


Crumb (1994) on IMDb

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