Crumb (1994) (R)
I'm not sure that I've seen a movie that is more disturbing than "Crumb". This movie received its recognition when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert named it as one of the best movies of the year on their television show. This documentary interviews Robert Crumb, an American cartoonist whose haunting past and controversial comics are anything but funny.
Robert grew up in a dysfunctional family, by the time he was five his collar bone had already been broken by his father and his mother was addicted to amphetamines. Growing up in this environment made all the Crumb children interviewed for the movie, disturbed.
Charles Crumb who started Roger out on this cartoon adventure, tried to kill himself by drinking a bottle of furniture polish and washing it down with a bottle of sleeping pills. Charles's last job was in the 60s as a phone solicitor, but after that he became agoraphobic and moved back in with his mother and was still living there when "Crumb" was filmed.
Then there's Maxon who became a molester in his teen delinquency years. When "Crumb" was filmed, he was practicing meditation and frequently sat on a bed of nails to calm himself.
But "Crumb" doesn't narrow in and focus on the horrendous things that happened to Robert, Charles, and Max—it seems to be saying that greatness can come from anywhere.
There's a huge amount of Freud in "Crumb"...comments are made that Robert's cartoons are his way of unearthing the "id" in everyone.
One thing that stuck me about "Crumb" was how graphic Robert was on paper and how tame he was in a one-on-one conversation. Many of his cartoons are disturbing and frightening...and that's putting it mildly. At one point in the movie, Robert is interviewed by a young, lady journalist who tells him that when she stumbled across one of his comic books when she was young—it scared her and confused her. When told this, Robert shyly scuffs his feet and tries to mumble out an apology underneath his blushing. He clearly feels bad for the girl but then he says that can't not paint the characters.
Robert is misogynistic, he admits to it himself. Many, if not all of his cartoons have something to do with women and debasing them in cruel and unusual ways.
Robert Crumb is unsteady in his head. If you couldn't tell that by just looking at his drawings then you will find out by the end of the movie. But his ghosts make him a haunted genius. He has an undeniable talent.
My problem with "Crumb" is how much I didn't care about Robert and his brothers. A documentary is supposed to pull you in and educate you—I was educated, but against my will. I couldn't care less about the man and his hardships and trials...I didn't connect with the man.
Perhaps it's because I found his cartoons repulsive and offensive...that would seem logical. Although I do admit that Robert has a talent, it's more of an adult version of Disney and Gary Larson combined.
All I was thinking during the movie was "Ooh, that looks like The Far Side".
Whether releasing his own personal demons, or satirizing the society; Robert paints his dark pictures without care of how they will affect the viewer.
In the interview with the aforementioned journalist, Robert tells the story of how he tried to make his young daughter watch "Goodfellas". She was scared of it, he admits that this is how his work could come across to people. Some people get a lot out of Martin Scorsese, but his daughter wasn't one of them. A lot of people could really like Robert Crumb, but he isn't everyone's favorite.
I agree with him on this, because I was one of the those people who didn't care for the cartoonist.
"Crumb" is well-done, it has all the right elements to be a great documentary—but for me, it wasn't. I can understand the appeal, I just don't find "Crumb" appealing.
Score: 1 star out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones