Director: Terry Zwigoff

The IFC has had considerable success with documentary films, most notably When We Were Kings and One Day in September. Arguably, Terry Zwigoff’s disturbingly intimate portrait of cartoonist Robert Crumb is an even more extraordinary achievement than either of those Oscar-winners. Crumb’s work will be familiar to anyone remotely interested in adult or alternative comics. He created such strips as Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural and Keep on Truckin’, all of which were associated with the counter-culture of the 1960s. Yet Crumb despised that culture, and his scathing, misanthropic cartoon portraits are not so much social commentary as graphic depictions of his own dark psyche. Positive and negative views of the artist are allowed a voice in the film, but these are overshadowed by Zwigoff’s coverage of Crumb’s family background and various encounters with his brothers. Here the film paints an appalling picture of psycho-sexual dysfunction which Robert, unlike his unfortunate brothers, was able to handle through his art. Only made possible because of the filmmaker’s friendship with his subject, Crumb goes way beyond the limits of an arts documentary and is one of the most courageous portraits of an artist ever committed to film.
U.S.A., 1994. Colour. Dolby stereo. 119 mins.

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