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Crumb

I would say, after seeing Crumb, that it’s an important documentary for anyone to see. It’s subject matter covers an extremely broad range of issues, and gives them all the attention they deserve. It shows Crumb’s reaction to his material, the reactions of others, the context in which the material was released in comic history, and the context in which Crumb was able to produce such content. It’s a complete, complex story that is told carefully and in perfect cadence.

Crumb looks off in the distance, laughing.

Nevermind that the film is like a session of therapy, a chance to reflect on the conditions in which we live. We see Crumb manage to maintain what might be looked at as a normal life while his siblings live in their own socially exclusive ways. It all changed when he became famous, he says.

Crumb's artwork hides the mess we've made of the world with cables over streets and bustling machines.

The struggle that the main presences have with women is especially intricate and especially relatable. The documentary matches a historical preservation of such issues in the same way that Crumb’s comics preserve the stories he tells. Some of the best footage in the documentary involves different people explaining situations with the comics as a background, and it’s absolutely incredible - he truly documents his own pieces of history in one of the most effective ways their is.

Crumb's drawing of a couple talking about how it's a beautiful day while he mumbles behind them about the situation.

Such a narrative structure shouldn’t be missed, and it alone makes Crumb worth seeing. We see him try to explain some of his techniques to others, but they just don’t get it. It’s about the art, he says, not the fame. Such a simple concept, one many of us take for granted, but he’s still trying to tell others. We leave others in the dust, but Crumb is still trying, even though he might be the one with the most grim opinion of his surroundings.

Crumb smiles happily next to his daughter, who is enthralled with something off screen (a Game Boy).

The discussion on the perceptions some have on his comics is excellent; multiple times he flat-out disagrees with those saying his images are “cute.” No, he says, they’re hellish nightmares. Cables hanging over streets and TVs on sticks, “Gawgeous” and music blaring from cars driving by. An obvious point; some are blind to the issues he sees. He comments on his wife enjoying commanding movers as they noisily cart their property into trucks in preparation for his move to France. Just the comment, look at how she’s enjoying this. He can barely do anything but point out the things he sees, and they’re hilarious and sad. He has a trained eye, he knows exactly what he doesn’t like, and we watch as he points them out to us.

A harsh contrast of a happy person in an ad and Crumb's pain.

The tragic family history is intriguing as much as it is disturbing, and watching it is sometimes hard but never a waste of time. Seeing the issues, feeling the history behind them, a delicate thread of truths strung together emerges throughout the course of the film. Seeing the way in which different women react to his controversial work is quite interesting. And all the while, Crumb laughs, sometimes uncontrollably, listening to everyone else speak, as if he were hearing absolutely amazing comedy throughout the whole picture, and through this film (as well as his comics) others can start to see the same thing, if they haven’t already.

A generically good-looking man says "You're Just Jealous" to the viewer in one of Crumb's drawings.

Rating: Excellent