Favorite Films: Crumb (1994)

Last year I did a year long feature on my top twenty five favorite films (or at least as of 2016). There was a lot of contenders and it did take me a long time for figure out what is the best of the best. Luckily even with a list finalized that means there are more films to discuss in the future. So this post starts a semi-new series of discussing what are my favorite films outside of the top twenty-five.

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People may know of Robert Crumb for one reason or another. Most will say his widely acclaimed, and personal hatred, of Fritz the Cat. Others may know his iconic image of ‘Keep on Truckin’. Outside of that I guarantee the majority of the public will have no idea who Robert Crumb is. A major crime if I ever heard one because not only is Robert Crumb one of the most influential artists of our time but he is also a fascinating figure outside of the art world. Which is why it was a complete no brainer back in 1994 for Terry Zwigoff to chronicle his (present at the time) life.

Now like any biopic you get the typical look at the man’s life and how his career blossomed at the right time. What makes Zwigoff’s documentary so different though is how he goes into the mind of Robert and never really leaves it. We get to see everything that makes the man tick whether it be philosophical, sexual, or the extremes of his personal life. Once you learn just how fucked up of a mind he had, thanks to a mixture of his own personal demons and copious amount of drugs, it is no wonder his artwork is nothing like you’ve seen even today. Even though the film takes place in the early nineties (and boy will you laugh at how outdated some of the products are) it wouldn’t surprise me if Crumb still harbors most of his views on the world twenty plus years later.

The big drawing point for this documentary to me though is the focus on Crumb’s brothers. It’s amazing how all three of the Crumb males all suffer from various mental disorders and yet only one was able to get out of a spiral (hint: it’s only Robert). Maxon Crumb is an accomplished artist but his sexual thoughts and hippie lifestyle has made him a shut in. And his brother Charles is the saddest person I’ve ever seen in a film. He went from having a promising career in art to being a complete recluse and complete shell of a human being living with his mother (he would commit suicide shortly after interviewing for this film). What’s great though is that even if Charles is completely broken down he still eloquently speaks well of himself and he is just as fascinating to listen to than Robert.

Even though I know the structure of the documentary I still sit there watching this like it’s the very first time. Robert Crumb is just too engrossing of a person to not sit back and listen to what he has to say. It might be a bit of a downer at points because of his family history but it is important to see how an artist was formed thanks to a sad childhood. It kinda inspires me as a writer because while my home life and family are much, MUCH better than Crumb’s it makes me realize even if you have some mental issues you can still fight through to be what you want to be. I doubt Crumb would be that optimistic if I were to say that to him but I know I would be captivated none the less to hear his response.

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