This movie chronicles the life and times of R. Crumb. Robert Crumb is the cartoonist/artist who drew Keep On Truckin', Fritz the Cat, and played a major pioneering role in the genesis of underground comix. Through interviews with his mother, two brothers, wife, and ex-girlfriends, as well as selections from his vast quantity of graphic art, we are treated to a darkly comic ride through one man's subconscious mind. As stream-of-consciousness images incessantly flow forth from the tip of his pen, biting social satire is revealed, often along with a disturbing and haunting vision of Crumb's own betes noires and inadequacies. As his acid-trip induced images flicker across our own retinas, we gain a little insight into this complex and highly creative individual.Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
"San Francisco" is misspelled in the closing titles. The caption reads: "Max Crumb still lives in San Francicsco". See more »
What are you trying to get at in your work?
Jesus! I dunno. I don't work in terms of conscious messages. I can't do that. It has to be something that I'm revealing to myself while I'm doing it. It's hard to explain. Which means that, while I'm doing it, I don't know what it's about. You have to have the courage, or the... to take that chance, you know? What's gonna come out? What's coming out of this? I enjoy drawing. It's a deeply ingrained habit.
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Crumb takes a deeply personal look at 60's counterculture artist Robert Crumb. The film focuses upon three decades of Crumb's artwork to reconstruct his unhappy childhood, days with Zap Comix in the late 60's, `dark side' period and recent life. Interviews with him, his wife Aline, family and friends reveal the motives behind his astounding creativity. Crumb is sometimes hilarious, often depressing and always entertaining a rare combination in a documentary film.
During childhood, Crumb and his brothers Charles and Maxon found solace from their tyrannical father in comic books and drawing cartoons. Crumb escaped the mental illness that ended both his brother's careers as artists (Charles was equally as talented), but otherwise had a perfectly miserable childhood and adolescence. Socially awkward, bullied at school and rejected by women, he decided in 1962 (at age 17) to take revenge upon society `by becoming a famous artist'.
In 1966, his chemically inspired `revelations of some seamy side of America's subconscious' caught the eye of a Haight Street publisher in San Francisco and Zap Comix was born. Zap was an outlet for his creative energy, which was rooted in his social difficulties. He was uninterested in money and once turned down a $100,000 contract a huge sum of money in those days. Although identified with the hippie crowd, he could not relate to their culture: `My main motivation [for drawing] was to get some of that free love action'.
After a few years of fame, he retired from Zap to express the darker side of his nature. His later work frequently contained sadistic and violent themes and was sometimes labeled as pornography by friends and critics alike. Even Crumb isn't sure of his intent: `Maybe I should be locked up and my pencils taken away from me'.
Critic Robert Hughes says that in Crumb's world there are no heroes and `even the victims are comic' ideas that don't jive with traditional American culture. But Crumb has always considered himself to be an outsider and enjoys the feeling of `being very removed or extremely separated from the rest of humanity and the world in general'. `Words fail me, pictures aren't much better' to describe his disgust with American consumerism. He now lives in France because its culture is `slightly less evil than the United States'.
The film is embarrassingly candid about unhappy details of Crumb's life, such as his brothers' mental illness, experiments with drugs and ambivalent attitudes towards women. Yet it is apparent that there is no misery or violence in this man it's all on paper. (Rating: A)
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