Crumb (1994) is a moving document about the life, work, & family of underground comix artist R. Crumb, creator of Mister Natural among so much else. R. Crumb is an odd duck, but also a true American genius, perversely admirable. Completely honest interviews reveal a strength & vulnerability not only of Robert Crumb himself, but of his mentally ill brother & mother.
That his brother Charles committed suicide soonafter this was filmed underscores the deep tragedy that is a great part of the context of Crumb's family heritage. That he personally transcended this context to contribute greatly to the world of arts doesn't mean he's not just about as loony as those who were crushed by their madness. When Crumb speaks of his depression when realizing he'd never be able to have sex with the retarded pinhead he saw in the street, it's obvious that he's easily as big a wack as any of his comix characters.
At the same time Crumb is a man who completely comprehends simple aesthetic beauty. If he'd had no other claim to fame, he'd've been one cool dude just for his knowledge of vintage music. It's also uplifting to see what an excellent life he has made for himself with his sweety, to observe that mad genius can now & then have all the rewards of merit. But the possibility of another outcome, the one we see in his doomed brother, is most haunting.
A film similarly beautiful in its rough-cut combination of love & eccentricity, sorrow & beauty, is the agonizingly honest tribute-documentary to Rockets Redglare (2004).
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