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Crumb (1994)
10/10
Heartbreaking and funny as hell
28 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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10/10
Unpretentious high art
3 March 2002
Let's Get Lost could have so easily been done badly. Intense fandom doesn't often make for objectivity, and the tragic-artist-gone-to-seed narrative is so, so tired. But this film kicks those limitations right over. It's tough about the ugly facts of Chet Baker's life as a liar, user, and junkie. At the same time, it never allows the viewer to forget the intense beauty Baker created as a musician, and embodied as a young man of perfect allure.

There are images I'll never forget: the expressions of his family as they listen to his music, his ex-wife lost in remembered pleasure; his daughter, pained; his dead-ringer son, uncomfortably smiling. The older, ravaged Baker, in the back seat of a convertible with two women, murmuring to them like he's in a dream. The stills of he and his second wife, both so stunning and so clearly in love, burning for each other. And more than that, the music, aching and romantic, and always so lonely, always about longing for some woman in some place that's beyond reach.

I am grateful to Bruce Weber for creating this film. It's why I go to the movies like some people go to the mountains or the sea, to church or to some lover's arms: it got me lost.
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