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Strange and interesting study of a warped genius
world_of_weird28 September 2004
Robert Crumb must have had a bellyful of people calling him a genius, but that's exactly what he is. Having grown up a bullied, miserable child - and an anachronism almost from the start, with his interests in pop culture ephemera and old-time music - in a dysfunctional family (his father was an overbearing tyrant, his mother an amphetamine addict, his older brother so obsessed with comics that he forces his siblings to draw them), Crumb escaped this drudgery by fleeing to Cleveland, where he first became a staff artist for a greetings card company, then one of their most innovative and prolific designers, before relocating to San Fransisco. His initial impetus was to "get some of that free love stuff", but his pen ran away with his thoughts and he wound up virtually launching the underground comics movement. Between 1968 and 1993, Crumb produced some of the funniest, most outrageous, licentious and flat-out brilliant comic book work of all time, and this film is an invaluable insight into the man behind the madness and the mayhem. Turns out Crumb, despite his bizarre appearance (he's stick thin, wears Coke-bottle spectacles and dresses like a character actor from a 1930s comedy) and sexual deviance (he likes nothing more than hefty haunches and big, strong legs in a woman), is something of an everyman - he's married, dotes on his understanding wife and gifted daughter, and feels just as alienated from the 'evils' of modern living as the rest of us sensitive intellectuals! At first glance, of course, Crumb is as weird as they come, but the sight of the aforementioned older brother Charles (a reclusive crank who rarely leaves his squalid bedroom, let alone the house) and younger brother Maxon (a haunted, bedraggled amateur mystic, given to sitting on beds of nails and begging on the street with a wooden bowl) throws the relative sanity of Robert into stark relief. One gets the impression that if Robert had not escaped, he'd have wound up suffering just as much as Charles and Maxon, possibly even more. This isn't easy viewing and the subjects are undeniably resistable, but it does offer a unique and enlightening glimpse into the reality of the old cliché about genius and madness walking hand-in-hand. Recommended.
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smswenson6 December 2001
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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Bordering On Sanity
Karl Self18 April 2001
After reading the couple of negative reviews of "Crumb" on IMDB I re - viewed the movie one more time just to make sure that the many times when I had seen this movie before, on the silver screen and on video, I have not been in a state of delusion. With the movie fresh in my mind I want to put out this message to all the people who have made depreciating statements such as "what is Crumb moaning about, he's famous now", "the Sixties weren't really like that", "it was just two hours of whining, rambling and unjustified complaining" etc. etc.: go back to your Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise big budget Oscar winners, and stop smearing dirt on one of the best documentaries ever made. So frigging what if it's shot with a hand - held camera and without studio lighting? "Crumb" is the real thing, it does not need any trickery or gloss. Basically it shows Robert Crumb, the artist famous for "Keep On Truckin'", "Fritz The Cat" (though he does not like to be associated with either of them) and "Mr. Natural", telling the story of his life through his wife and brothers, with a few scenes of him at a vernissage and a comic book store (etc.) thrown in for good measure. Call it a modern - day version of the van Gogh - story, or a look at the darker (or even just the non - Warner - Brothers) side of the flower - power generation, the human condition, the power of art, the battle of the sexes, a case history of mental illness, psychotic families, whatever. The story, and with it the film, is amazing and totally captivating. I have watched it many times and intend to watch it many times over. Give it a miss only if you expect some good, clean, family entertainment, but do so at your loss.
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A Different Way to View Crumb
NYC Lion25 November 2002
First, I liked this movie very much. But, as you can see from the previous comments, this is a movie that you'll either love or hate. But its hard to be indifferent to it. Zwigoff does a wonderful job of setting a mood that allows you to examine an artist who is depraved, perverse and, yet, insightful.

Everyone seems to come away from the movie with an idea that Robert is spared the obvious insanity of his two brothers because of his art. But I see it differently(hence the title of this comment). Even Robert admits that his brother, Charles, was a better cartoonist. Another way to view Robert's "success" and his brothers' descent into "crazy" is fame. Crumb was an involuntary icon of the 60's. Where would Robert be today if he wasn't recognized and rewarded in the 60's? If Zap comix had turned him away for his misogynist and racist comics, would he have had the subsequent female relationships that seemed to normalize his existence? What would his fantasizing over a high school yearbook and habitual masturbation meant if he was an unknown sharing a room with his brother at Mom's house?

When I watch this movie, I am always mindful that Robert's obvious genius would be lost were it not for his luck at being discovered. I suppose that is an obvious statement but, in Crumb's case, fame has managed to gloss over many unacceptable characteristics. And, maybe, that's not such a bad thing.

The film lightly touches on Crumb's relationship with his son and daughter. For some reason, Crumb's bumbling attempts at affection with his children were a bit disturbing. Or maybe its just that Crumb's fixation with wrestling and piggyback riding lingers in your mind when he hugs his daughter.

On a lighter note, I've noticed that no one has mentioned the soundtrack of this movie. Designed to be in keeping with Robert's love of old American music, the music helps to define the subject. I wonder why Zwigoff made no mention of Crumb's Cheap Suit Serenaders band.

Crumb comments against the crass commercialism of America. And, yet, I first saw this movie at a theater in Baltimore where the lobby was chock full of Crumb comic picture cards, mugs, etc.

Crumb, the movie, is a crazy world of contradictions and well worth the ride.
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An astonishing look at relativity
mprins27 January 1999
What makes Crumb such an intriguing documentary isn't the fact that man looked at through the camera is admirable or interesting or laudable, although one could make the argument that R. Crumb is all of those things. No, what makes Crumb such a great film is the way it shows the twisted nature of Crumb against the backdrop of his nearly psychotic family. Compared to the world, R. Crumb is a sexual deviant, a lunatic genius, and a perfect candidate to be taken away in a plain white van. Compared to his family, R. Crumb is completely and utterly normal. It's this juxtaposition that makes Crumb work over all two hours the movie needs to take its course.
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SOMEBODY gave me an enema.....
wbhickok24 May 2001
'Crumb' is a fascinating, unsettling, but equally hilarious look at Robert Crumb. Even people who have no artistic talent or interest in the arts would be impressed with this movie. Watching how this man endured a brutal childhood and how he tried to escape it all. His candid remarks are a riot. The interview with Dian Hanson was hilarious, [does anybody have a copy of that issue]. The segments with his brothers were funny but sad at the same time. There were only two items I wish they would have included, I would have liked to seen him talk about his tax problems, and second, I wish he would have played a number with band he is in.
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Explaining R. Crumb
Into_The_West1 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Robert Crumb is not everybody's cup of tea. He has been accused of being a racist and a misogynist. This film does much to deal with misconceptions about the artist, but not all the misconceptions are negative.

As typical for a documentary like this, there are several artists/critics interviewed about Crumb's work. Invariably, there is some sort of analysis given. Crumb's compared to Brueghel, to Daumier, he's spoken of as a great political satirist.

The fact is the first thing discussed in the film is what motivates Crumb's art, what is he trying to express. After a slightly amused, slightly annoyed "Jesus! I dunno..." he speaks that he doesn't think of his work in conscious terms until _after_ he's drawn it; then he figures out what it's about.

This film very subtly points out Crumb is not really anything he's been accused or praised for being. His work "is the purest form of his id," his wife, Aline, comments.

The film is really his triumph to be himself through a number of horrendous hurdles: a brutal father and drug addicted brother; being rejected by women; being tempted to sell out; and legal problems over cartoons. While his two brothers, Charles and Max, both show in differing degrees how their youths were permanently scarred then, Robert Crumb emerges whole, even admirable, in spite of the uncompromising nature of his art. He is unique, his work not easily separable into allegorical meanings or expression of political beliefs.

Crumb is a great artist, and he cannot be understood from a few interviews and his art can't reduced into something understandable in clichéd artistic terms. Zwigoff's film shows Crumb in every way available and tries to express his art similarly. At the end, all we can do is be astonished that the man not only survived but flourished, and marvel at the wide range of what he's produced.

Zwigoff's style is so seamless, it doesn't feel like his film, but Crumb's. Of course, it is not Crumb's, but that impression is an indication of Zwigoff's mastery of the form. If his own personality intrudes in the fabric of the film by what he shows and how he orders it, he complements rather than obscures Crumb's genius.

The result is unforgettable, not just for its exposition of Crumb, artist and human being, but for the experience of letting Zwigoff's work flow over the film and us.
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Heartbreaking and funny as hell
mseditrix28 March 2002
What are the odds that an artist can survive family violence, mental illness, sexual rejection, and Big Mac culture? As far as this film can make clear, three members of the Crumb family had strong artistic temperaments and significant talent. Only one, Robert, made it out alive, and his life and work are defined by resistance to what should have been a sad fate.

To many, this documentary may be depressing, offensive to women, or just too damn ugly to sit through, but it made me as happy as anything I've ever seen on screen. Art's ability to reveal truth and promote survival is evident in every frame. I admire R. Crumb's courage to speak unpopular truths, to draw what gets him off, and to ferret out the art he loves at considerable expense and trouble (he's a blues maven; one of my favorite scenes, where's he's sitting on his floor absorbed by aching music, is echoed in Ghost World, when Enid takes home Seymour's record and gets lost in her favorite song). And like Ghost World, ratty, real American culture is railed at hilariously: another favorite scene involves R. on a park bench, disgustedly commenting on the ugliness of everything around him: logo-emblazoned clothes, graceless music, ugly plastic everything.

By the end of it all, I respected and liked him Crumb enormously. I'd take his scary-woman worship over the banal musings of a dime-store philosopher any day. And Terry Zwigoff deserves much praise for being able to pull it off (especially as a first-time filmmaker who had very little idea what he was doing). From high art and family pathos to a lovely animal appreciation of big round female asses, this is far more a "roller-coaster, I laughed/I cried" film than most others so touted.
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Should please everyone from (wannabe) intellectuals to smelly dim-witted perverts.
fedor827 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Quite possibly the best bio documentary I've ever seen. I've heard that Robert Crumb hates this film, but that's typical of him and should in no way influence you not to watch it. (For some people, naturally, that may serve as a motive to see it.) After all, Crumb almost appears as if he hates everyone and everything - except his old jazz/blues music and his daughter. (Then again, I've been often told that I myself hate everything/everywhere/everyone, whereas I know for certain that I only despise 95% of the things I'm "accused" of hating.) He probably feels uneasy about himself too, so obviously he's going to react negatively to a movie where he appears a lot of the time - and a movie that "exposes" him. Although, to be fair, there is little Crumb ever hid from his personal life, so in that sense there are no major surprises for the more knowledgeable among his fans.

It's utterly irrelevant whether you've heard of Crumb or not, or like/dislike his artwork/comics, or if you even care about comic-books or the visual arts. He is a fascinating and intelligent character, only to be potentially "upstaged" by his brother Charles, who committed suicide a year(?) after this movie was made. Charles is tragedy personified, a shy luckless misfit who could have had as much artistic success as his brother.

There's plenty here to amuse, shock and entertain, a constant barrage of interesting little details about the life of Crumb, his family members, his friends, and the underground scene he was/is a part of. Some of the music Crumb loves is occasionally used as a soundtrack, and this gives the film a distinctive feel. Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Word Blues", which is played early on, is a terrific example of what true blues sounds like. (Forget Eric Clapton...)

Robert Crumb often comes off as totally un-PC, yet sometimes his views may be seen as Leftist (i.e. decidedly PC), but essentially he is a mankind-loathing, intelligent semi-misfit who through his enormous talent and persistence (and a little luck - you always need that) managed to forge a unique career, and avoid ending up perhaps like his brother Charles.
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Portrait of an Artist
wesruv-123 April 2006
I'm writing this mostly as a rebuttal to some of the bad reviews. This is an honest portrait of an artist, like him or not, it's well done, and certainly thought provoking; and while he may not be the best spoken man on earth I thought the film was amazing. But be forewarned he is, to put it plainly, perverted and incredibly eccentric but also honest and self aware, take it for what you will.

**possible spoilers below** One comment accused the film of being voyeuristic and going against what Crumb's art is about-which is ludicrous, in the film he sits in a few lounges and draws portraits of people in his sketchpad that are more than voyeuristic- everything about his art lends itself to this kind of look into his life. Hell, he has autobiographical comics that are just as voyeuristic as the film. It's Crumb in his own words closing a chapter of his life.
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FreeMM18 March 2006
Fascinating documentary about a US underground cartoonist, Robert Crumb. Although I'd heard of Crumb (mainly through American Splendour I wasn't that aware of his work although some of his cartoons were images that I'd seen before. Basically the guy did an assortment of freaky and surreal images straight out of the darker recesses of his mind. Criticised for his portrayal of women in his comics by some, the film delves into what can only be described as a unique family background, where his brothers appear to be as divorced from reality as his comics are. It was good enough to get me to go and check out some of his stuff.
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Has there ever been a better documentary of an artist?
erichrattenburg8 August 2005
I don't like Crumb's work. I don't even know if I like Crumb as a man. But what I do know is that I like this documentary just about better than any other documentary I've ever seen.

The things that are revealed are astonishing. The levels to which these people present themselves is nothing short of amazing. I've often wondered if I've ever made myself this vulnerable to anyone ever, and yet Crumb and his brothers do it for the whole, entire world.

It's a shame that Terry Zwigoff hasn't done yet another documentary, because he obviously has a knack for the genre. While I have liked his other movies, they haven't been nearly as good as Crumb. He seemed to really understand just how close and yet how far back he needed to be at the same time.

Crumb is a movie that won't let you go for a long time. If you haven't seen it yet, prepare yourself for something both vulgar and heartwarming, charming and repulsive.
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Sex, drugs and piggyback rides
jxmakela4 September 2004
Robert Crumb became an idol among hippies in the 1960's because of the psychedelic comics he drew at the time. In this excellent film, directed by Terry Zwigoff (who also directed the excellent, and also comic book related, "Ghost World" and "American Splendor") Crumb starts out by telling that he hates just about all the work he is most famous for. This is typical, Í think, of Crumb: he is uncompromisingly politically incorrect, completely unafraid to speak his mind openly, and above all disgusted by the idea of selling out for money.

I have been a fan of Crumb ever since I advanced beyond Donald Duck and Marvel Comics about 20 years ago (this is not to say that I don't love Donald or Marvel anymore, because I do). Crumb is probably the most talented comic book artist of the latter half of the 20t Century. Quite simply, I don't think anyone can draw as well as he does. He is not much of a storyteller, but like I pointed out above, that is more than made up by the fact that he is always totally candid about his life, sometimes painfully and embarrassingly so.

"Crumb" is an excellent portrait of an exceptionally talented artist who also happens to be a total pervert. However, as this film makes abundantly clear, Robert Crumb is practically the ideal model of a stable, well-adjusted person when compared to his mother or his brothers Charles and Maxon. We see once again that great suffering makes a great artist.
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Exploring the depths of the human psyche.
el_kumquato8 March 2005
In my opinion documentaries rely on the subject matter more than how the film is shot. To say the least Robert Crumb is an interesting character, which makes this an interesting documentary. I had no previous knowledge of him, so I sat down and watched it. A few minutes in, my first impressions of Robert were he was a quirky cartoonist. Nothing special.

The film rolls on. Being someone who can't even draw dog poo if I was give a brown crayon and a piece of paper I was immediately envious of the ease he seemed to draw with. The talent didn't stop with Robert, I was equally amazed with his brothers exploits with the pen.

Fast forward to the end. I told my friends I saw this amazing documentary. They asked me what it was about. I said a guy drawing cartoons. -blank looks- "oh" Didn't quite give the doco justice. The premise of this doco is about a guy drawing cartoons, but where this doco excels is the exploration of the depths of the human psyche with such brutal honesty. This film explored the stuff that is as far back in the human consciousness that you don't even want to know is there. It was absolutely fascinating the quirky and humorous interplay between the brothers and how they had evolved/de-evolved from their childhood interactions to adult life. All brothers sat on the line of the full circle of sanity that meets around with insanity. One of the most interesting things i've seen.
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sharp focus on surreal details
0rganism17 January 2004
"Crumb" is a strangely enchanting enigma. The film is essentially an in-depth character study of Robert Crumb, primordial underground cartoon genius of the '60s. As I watched, I felt drawn into his world of frustrated sexuality and tormented sensitivity, pulled along pathways of familial dysfunction I didn't even know existed.

Although he is the center of the movie, Robert is hardly the only compelling character in the film. His family, his friends, his admirers, his former girlfriends, his critics, all come through in very sharp focus. This film could easily have been nothing more than an homage to R. Crumb's 'seminal' works, but instead offers nuanced interpretation from some intelligent people. Even the master himself takes a dim view of his creation at times.

Yet one comes to understand, through R. Crumb's contrasting interactions with his family, what a curious combination of inner strength and minute perception it is that makes his comic art so accessible to others. Simple yet mindblowing things, like how he approaches sketches of photographs from a 19th century sanitarium, or his sourcebook with pages of photos of suburban streetlights and electrical substations, give insight into the mechanisms of his genius.

Highly recommended, 9/10
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Mr. Unnatural
alohajoe-114 April 2006
When I first saw this film at an art house in L.A. I was blown away. I had been reading Zap Comics and it's brethren since the 70s and loved them w/out really knowing why. In this great documentary I found that Robert Crumb was telling TRUE stories ins his comics. Which makes him a great story teller as well as an artist that now enjoys accolades from museums around the world. He is one of those very rare people who can be called a MASTER. He also maintains an honesty and a level of integrity that is just not seen these days, the exception being Dave Chapelle when he walked away from $50 million. It also sheds light on his dark childhood and how he turned out to be the "normal" one. Music plays a vital part in this movie as well. Crumbs passion for mostly blues music from 1936 and before and his premier collection is fascinating. He easily could be considered a music historian. I live in Colorado and will be visiting Roger Ebert today as part of his annual trek to speak about film near the CU campus and hope I can talk to him about his commentary on this updated DVD. You don't have to be a fan of Crumb's to enjoy this film either. His life story is more than enough. For me this movie led me to become the largest collector of Crumb art in the state of Colorado and enjoy an inside circle status. I can't wait for his book of Genisis to come out. This movie is NOT for children so be warned.
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disturbing, compelling
rupie20 November 2002
I was drawn to this flick as I channel surfed on IFC. Once you start watching, you cannot take your eyes away, like watching a train wreck. This is one very strange person, and one is ready to consign him to the loony bin until you meet the rest of the family, whereupon Robert comes up looking like the very picture of sunny sanity. His brothers Max and George are so clearly unbalanced (and mom's wrapping isn't very tightly tied either), and in mental pain, that it is disturbing to listen to their tortured self-analyses; yet, like some sort of horrible natural disaster unfolding before your eyes, you feel compelled to watch. The home in which George lives with his mother is a showcase of squalor. The revelations of their horrible childhoods with a sadistic and bullying father and an amphetamine-crazed mother, are further horrors in this macabre family story. The refusal of the 2 sisters to be interviewed for the story is an omission that speaks loudly, in view of the revelations of the twisted sexual fantasies of all three brothers; one cannot help wondering what the sisters would have had to say.

Aside from Crumb's apparent weirdness, right down to his off-the-wall physical appearance and sartorial habits, his comments on American culture - its materialism and its aesthetic barbarism - are dead on. One notes with interest the photography collection Crumb show us of power lines, telephone poles, traffic signals, and the other arcana of the ugly technological "background view" of our culture - to which we have become inured - which he uses as a reference for his work, because who could imagine such stuff?

Robert Crumb - or at least the impression one takes of him from this movie - is an ambiguously enigmatic character, driven by darkly bizarre inner sexual demons, yet with a weird sort of innocence and compelling aesthetic vision that isolates him from American culture. We are not surprised, at the end, when he decamps himself and his family off to a village in southern France. We are also not surprised to learn that George committed suicide shortly after the completion of the project.

The movie itself is coldly dispassionate, making no commentary or judgement on these people, but letting everything and everyone speak for himself. The result is a disturbing yet compelling portrait of a troubled artist and the personal and family history that shaped him.
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A painfully revealing, thrilling, shocking and generally interesting documentary about the life of R. Crumb
movielova19 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I first found out about R. Crumb through "Fritz The Cat" even though he was opposed to the movie (which I must say I thoroughly enjoyed!) Anyway, I decided to do a bit of research on the character and found out that a man named Robert Crumb created this spaced out little creature. For a couple of years on, I forgot about the subject. Then, last year I remembered Robert and his controversial works. I was in the city and I happened to stumble across this rather "hidden" DVD. It was entitled "Crumb". At once I stuffed my hand down my pocket and fished out my hard earned $30. And I have got to say, it is the best damn $30 I have ever spent. "Crumb" will shock you, intrigue you, provide you with facts about R. Crumbs life that you could only hear from the man himself. This movie shows how Crumb reacts to events, what he thinks of the world and what makes him tick. As far as the whole storyline goes, the movie has an excellent soundtrack to add to the whole experience.I'd have to say, if you see only one documentary this year, definitely make it "Crumb". You wont be disappointed!
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A Portrait of Madness and Genius
great_sphinx_4213 July 1999
I found this to be a very interesting, very sad, and very revealing look at a dysfunctional genius. Crumb's work is generally intriguing (if not always likeable) so I decided to watch this documentary. Crumb is to the world as his family is to him. Crumb is by no means what many people would consider normal, but it was only through his art that he found his salvation. While his personality has tons of odd quirks both troublesome and entertaining, his family demonstrates how far he had to go to escape. Both of his brothers were talented artists as well, and the differences between them and Crumb are telling. It's also interesting as a true look at mental illness, not the candy-coated or nightmarish visions typically put forth by the media, but mental illness as experienced by everyday people. This movie isn't terribly exciting, and no one character is enormously sympathetic, but it's an extremely interesting look at the madness that consumed a family and how it shaped the brilliance of the one who managed, almost imperceivably, to escape.
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Crumb rocks. this might SPOIL a little of this deliciously dirty little flick (and it might SPOIL an aspect of "harold and maude.")
xiaohsinghsing24 February 2004
have you ever wondered if maybe woody allen isn't such a bad guy for marrying his younger asian step-daughter (or whatever she was to him)?

did you like the movie "harold and maude" for being sexually deviant and dark?

or remember when george carlin said the dreaded "n-word," apparently in protest of the rule that blacks and whites are supposed to use separate vocabularies? were you impressed by that kind of honesty? i was and i liked crumb for that and many other reasons.

crumb is impressively human and real. he's totally candid about the abuse he's recieved and possibly metted out. robert crumb is part geek and part lover, part racist and part woman-hater. yet these and other "bad" and "good" elements of his personality were not labeled, but accepted. nor were they censored from his comics or from this movie. in fact, the only things crumb doesn't offer are apologies. eminem, eat your heart out.
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Crumb has a magic pen, but don't ask for his autograph.
copper19636 August 2006
Legendary underground comic artist Robert Crumb of "Keep on Truckin" fame is transported back home--courtesy of his equally eccentric friend and cult director, Terry Zwigoff--to pay a visit to his wacky and disturbed family. Crumb, reluctantly, encounters his two bothers and mother in varying degrees of emotional collapse. The mother is a piece of work. She is in total denial about her boys. Crumb's two sisters, however, remain absent from the family's tragic downward spiral--and they don't participate (wisely) in Zwigoff's pet project (The story goes that the director threatened suicide to gain Crumb's full cooperation. Who knows the truth?) Back at the ranch--Crumb does live in the country--the artist's father is dead. His older brother lives in a single room on San Francisco's Skid Row, where he bathes sometimes and sleeps on a bed of nails. He also has dark thoughts about Asian women. Once in a while, he acts on them. His other bother lives with their crazy mother, never works, and reads and collects mountains of old, yellowed and tattered paperbacks. He refuses to read anything new. Everyone is manic depressive. On drugs. And bananas. But somehow Crumb has struck a balance between his art and personal life. He survives nicely with his wife and their daughter in a comfortable ranch house. The dwelling serves dual purposes: protection for his massive and priceless blues record collection, and personal solitude from an encroaching outside world. His next step is a permanent move to France! In the end, Crumb, the movie, is a worthwhile odyssey for anyone who wishes to feel better about their own family. You might find this movie on the bottom shelf of the video store or at a psych ward near you.
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Portrait of the Artist as a Lost Man...
Cari-819 August 1999
"Crumb" provides us with and excellent biography of cult favorite Pop/Comic artist Robert Crumb, and a fine synopsis of his work and the circumstances surrounding it. The two elements are inseparable. And, just as Crumb's art may not be for everyone, neither is Crumb the movie.

The documentary style presentation keeps the film grounded in reality (it could otherwise easily be construed as fiction, so strange is the story). Much to his credit, Terry Zwigoff conveys well that brand of train-wreck fascination we feel when seeing something profoundly disturbing. As distressing as parts of Crumb may be, it's nearly impossible to look away.

Robert Crumb himself is as unique as they come--he exudes a bizarre sort of aw-shucks perversity that inspires a strange mixture of pity and awe. His psyche is laid bare on page after page, panel after panel of his work. One has to wonder what might have become of Robert if he had not directed his energy towards art. What immediately comes to mind are the unsettling images of his brothers Charles, completely unbalanced, and Maxon, coping in self-imposed solitude, and the distant, grating voice of his neurotic mother.

Keep drawing Robert, please.

(A small note of caution to those viewing Crumb on a large screen, some of the moving shots are done with a hand held camera and can cause a little vertigo.)
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Great Look at Artistic Process
zatz-19 February 2005
This documentary explores two aspects of Crumb's life: His family life and his sexual interests. The man is an incredible artist and his works are pure art, even if they are comics. To defend this position, we hear from a British art critic who praises Crumb's work, no matter what the offensive subject matter is. On the other side, we see women - past girlfriends, fellow artists, and others who admit that Crumb is a great illustrator but are extremely wary of the sexist and racist messages Crumb's comics contain. Is Crumb really a sexist and racist or is he commenting on the world? The answer is hard to determine but, after seeing this movie, I think that its both. It's amazing how Crumb, this skinny, ugly, fake-toothed weirdo is so incredibly tapped in to the crazy male id and its sexual desires and racist beliefs.

And, at the same time, he's barely able to function in society. He just blends into the crowd and doesn't really understand the world around him. A lot of Crumb's observations on the changing world are used by Terry Zwigoff, who directed this film, in his next movie, "Ghost World." That movie is also an adaptation of a comic book so maybe it was there that Crumb's influence was made. Either way, he's the comic book version of John Waters - ahead of his time in grossness, incredibly influential, and not yet surpassed.

As for Crumb's family life, the amazing part is that he's the most normal member of his family. His brothers are also great artists but are even worse at functioning in the world. Maybe it's genetics. Maybe it's the torment of being an artist. Seeing Crumb's family humanizes him. Then we see his comics. And we can decide for ourselves if we can separate the artist from the art but, more importantly, we have to decide if we can separate ourselves from the art. Can we laugh at sexism and racism and not be sexists or racists? Does the fact that we find it so offensive mean that we hate sexism and racism or that we are afraid to face our own beliefs (or the beliefs of those close to us)? Bringing out these questions is the greatness of this movie.
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One of the most ignored Masterpieces of our time
zetes8 April 2000
Crumb has not gotten its due credit. Very few films of the 1990s have been universally accepted as masterpieces. Crumb should definitely have been one of the few. On the back of the video's box, it proclaims "one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time." It is probably the only film of the decade besides _Schindler's List_ that could have claimed that without stretching the truth. Every critic proclaimed that it was one of the very best films of the year it was released. Gene Siskel put it as his #1 picture for the year (having said in his original review "I doubt I'll see a better movie this year"), and Roger Ebert put it as his #2 only after _Leaving Las Vegas_ (the only 1990s film I'd put above it myself, too).

So why do I claim that it is so great? Well, I particularly think that documentaries are much more important than fiction films if they are done well. The purpose of t] art is to study and try to educate us about human nature. Documentaries, since they are fact and not fiction, logically can tell us more about human nature than fiction films, which can tell us about human nature, but they necessarily teach it through the eyes of the artists who created the work. For instance, _Hoop Dreams_, which has been accepted by many already to be a masterpiece, s by far the best sports film ever made. No fiction film could have had more insight into the appeal of sports. Also, it is one of the most important films ever made to deal with racial issues for the same reason.

Crumb is the most important film ever made on the subject of the artist. Never has a film had more insight into an artist's work than Crumb does into R. Crumb. Each time I watch it, his artwork becomes more deep and complex. Each drawing becomes extremely multi-layered. R. Crumb was hardly inhibited while Zwigoff was filming him, nor were the other people who were interviewed. Crumb spares none of his personal life. Because of this, we learn more about him than we have ever learned about a single fictional character in film history. Not Charles Foster Kane, not Jake LaMotta, not Travis Bickle. No one.

R. Crumb is also extremely anti-capitolistic. I love this! He has inspired me with his thoughts. He never existed as an artist to make money. He has enough to exist happily, but he does not live in a mansion, nor does he own a sports team. He does not own a fleet of vehicles. In fact, he can't even drive!
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