Today I watched Crumb, directed in 1994 by Terry Zwigoff. I've had it on my Netflix queue for a while because I knew it was supposed to be good, but I never wanted to watch it. I didn't know who Robert Crumb was, and I never saw any of his work, and so I always felt so enthused about the movie. Why would I want to watch a documentary about a comic artist that I knew nothing about? I was really surprised by this film, though. I was so interested in Robert and his brothers, and even though I knew nothing about them or their art, I was really intrigued and engrossed for the whole film.
The film is about the life of Robert Crumb, a strange comic artist. He started an underground movement, and his weird, sexually disturbing and often racist drawings have a cult following. We also get to hear from his two traumatized and disturbed brothers, both artists as well. It's a very strange family, and it was really fascinating to watch. I was sometimes uncomfortable because the family was so weird or creepy, but I sort of loved them. I think it's because I just love that you never could write anything like this - by far, nothing is as weird as real life.
I never knew what to make of Robert or his brothers. Robert was funny and articulate, but sometimes the brothers creeped me out a lot. Like Maxon, detailing how he would sexually harass and molest women, like it was a joke, and it was ok because he never went too far and raped someone. It's just so strange. Yet as much as it was strange, it was sort of awesome at the same time, in an odd way. I just like seeing people - I love to people watch, to see all sorts of ranges of human experience and emotion. Even though I really didn't enjoy Maxon, he was very interesting. Does that make sense? I just was really fascinated by them all. They were so different.
Even though I didn't know anything about Robert's artwork until today, it was neat to see it. Some of it was really depraved and strange, but he is clearly so talented. Even the most grotesque of his drawings show a huge amount of technical skill. I loved that the film was so full of closeups of his art, not just because it was new to me, but because I could see all of the tiny pen lines and the talent that was in each piece. I might not have loved the artwork, but I could for sure appreciate it.
I can't say that this movie is for everyone - I would imagine that it might be hard to like the people in it, or the art might be too alienating. I love all things weird and strange, so I couldn't help but enjoy the movie, but I could see that it might be too much for others. I thought it was just great that it made me interested in someone I never knew anything about...it seemed like a sign that the film maker was very talented. He kept everything interesting enough that even though I was lost at points trying to figure out comic history, I never lost interest. Although I guess so much of this is a result of the Crumb family, who were just so strange and fascinating to me.
Have any thoughts on Crumb? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Crumb
Buy it on Amazon