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Crumb - Special Edition (Coming April '06)

"Crumb is a meeting between two eccentrics in sympathy with each other. The artist R. Crumb created such bizarre images in his underground comic books that the art critic Robert Hughes named him 'the Brueghel of the last half of the 20th century.' The director Terry Zwigoff knew him before he had any notion of making this documentary. They shared a love for obscure musicians on 78 rpm records from the 1920s and 1930s, and they once played in the same band. Long before he knew the inhabitants of Crumb's childhood home would be the keys to this film, Zwigoff had slept the night there and met Crumb's brother Charles, who is perhaps the key to the whole Crumb story."

"The old 78s led Zwigoff to his first film, 'Louie Bluie' (1986) about a musician named Howard Armstrong, whose forgotten recordings from the 1930s fascinated him. Learning that Armstrong was still alive, he made a film about a man who was ageless, gifted in music and art, a clown and mimic, a life force. Zwigoff was now a filmmaker, and knew that his next subject was obviously his fellow music lover, Robert Crumb."

"This was not obvious to Crumb, a legendary underground artist from San Francisco whose 'Keep on Truckin' image had become a 1960s icon, and whose cover for Janis Joplin's 'Cheap Thrills' album was a classic even apart from the music it enclosed. Crumb had little interest in success, turned down countless offers to license 'Keep on Truckin',' turned down an offer to host 'Saturday Night Live' with his band, drew compulsively all the time, produced small-press graphic novels of startling, often pornographic, weirdness and listened to his old records."

"Art may have saved Crumb from madness, turning private neurosis into public validation. Zwigoff is unsparing in showing Crumb's more transgressive work; the camera follows panel by panel through comic books as Crumb narrates stories of incest, necrophilia, scatology, assault, mayhem and sexual couplings as unlikely as they are alarming. To call some of his images sexist, racist and depraved is putting it mildly."

"Yet the women who knew him best seem fond of him, especially his first wife, Dana, and current wife, Aline, who see him (as we do in the film) as a smart and entertaining companion who has transformed his demons into his work. Yes, he has sexual hangups, but not ones they find unpleasant or painful."

"Crumb's art and career would define the limits of this film if it had been made by someone else. What deepens Zwigoff's work are the scenes with the family members. There is in Charles such a gentle sadness, such a resigned acceptance of his emotional imprisonment, that we sense how Robert's art has saved him from a similar destiny. In the fondness of his wives and girlfriends, there is a redemption to be sensed. As the film ends, Crumb is moving with his family to the south of France, where in the last 10 years he has not produced so much, perhaps because, let us speculate, he is happier." ------ Roger Ebert


  • Available Subtitles: English, French
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Audio Commentary by Roger Ebert & Terry Zwigoff
  • Sneak Peek at the new feature film: "Art School Confidential"

Curator's Comments:

Read Roger Ebert's essay on this DVD Classic.

Director: Terry Zwigoff
121 minutes
Released: 1995
Rated: R

Country: U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre: Documentary


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