DIRECTOR: TERRY ZWIGOFF
CAST: ROBERT CRUMB
Robert “R.” Crumb’s work as the breakout star of the underground comix scene was plenty well known before the appearance of this intimate, deeply melancholy documentary, but Zwigoff’s film revealed the deep well of pain and family dysfunction that Crumb’s work draws from. Alongside brothers Maxon and Charles, both living plagued by depression and neurosis, Robert revisits his anguished youth, while preparing to uproot his family to relocate from California to France. A peerless depiction of the process through which trauma can be turned into talent—even if it can never be forgotten.
I think it can be very difficult to represent the creative process—I sometimes shy away from novels or narrative films about artists for that reason. But this Zwigoff documentary is so good at mapping the weird mind of R. Crumb. There’s so much gothic darkness in Crumb’s world, especially in his family. At the same time, you see how Crumb marinated himself in the popular culture of his childhood, popular culture that insisted that life was great, that your parents loved you, that all was well. In the distance between that crushing darkness and the sunny, false reality of the comics that Crumb inhaled, you start to piece together how an artistic sensibility might come to be, and how and why R. Crumb’s distorted and grotesque bawdiness was born.