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Crumb Movie Review

documentary film odd zwigoff

Watching Crumb made me think about Grey Gardens, the 1975 documentary the Maysles brothers filmed about the odd mother and daughter who were related to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. There are so many odd mothers and daughters on the planet; were those two chosen only because they were so closely related to the First Lady? Watching Crumb also made me think about Gates of Heaven, the 1978 documentary Errol Morris did about a pet cemetery and the two brothers who maintained it. As the camera focused on these cooperative subjects, it made them look rather foolish and rather odd. The Crumb family is also rather odd, but would we be so interested in these previously anonymous people if underground comic artist Robert Crumb weren't related to them? It's one thing to watch a movie about troubled make-believe people and feel relieved that we don't have to live their lives, but to watch Crumb and feel relieved that we aren't Max and Charles Crumb makes me wonder: how many families could be so closely scrutinized and emerge with any dignity whatsoever? Unfortunately, fame is the bench mark of success in America. If you don't achieve it (or don't want it), why does that invalidate your life when a documentary filmmaker comes to pay a call about a legendary sibling? (Two Crumb sisters refused to be a part of this film.) Every life has its patches of depression, imperfection, and inactivity. Many lives are conducted in seclusion. Many fathers are “sadistic bull(ies).” And it's unimaginable that there's a teenage boy alive who DOESN'T indulge in sexual fantasies. As a documentary, Crumb won wide acclaim for its director, Terry Zwigoff, who worked six years on the project. I wouldn't LET anyone into my life for six years who only wanted to examine it, good and bad, with a camera and then distribute the edited results all over the world. Would you? Are Robert Crumb and his family still speaking to Terry Zwigoff? If not, is that still okay because strangers enjoyed this film so much in neighborhood theatres? Were so-called primitive tribes that far off when they believed that a camera would steal their souls? I give it four bones for the cognoscenti, but for myself, no comment.

1994 (R) 119m/C D: Terry Zwigoff; C: Maryse Alberti. National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘95: Best Feature Documentary; Sundance Film Festival ‘95: Best Cinematography, Grand Jury Prize. VHS, LV, Closed Caption, DVD

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