Quick recap: Robert Crumb is an underground comic artist, known for his psychedelic characters as well as sexualized images of women and cats. That’s right, Crumb is the creator of Fritz the Cat. This documentary focuses on his sad upbringing and his two brothers who have mental illnesses. There are interviews with Crumb himself as well as former girlfriends and wives.
Fun (?) Fact: I knew nothing about Crumb or his work before this film so everything was a big revelation. Despite creating some of the weirdest comics around, Crumb has a semi-normal life with his wife and daughter.
My thoughts: As I stated above, I knew absolutely knew nothing about Crumb before watching the film but after watching for just a couple of minutes, easily recognized his work. If a documentary’s purpose is to shed light on an unknown or little known subject, this one did so perfectly. There were no voiceovers and just a couple of ‘experts’ interviewed. Most of the film is Crumb living out his life or talking to his two brothers.
Crumb is known for creating some of the most controversial comics of his time. Many follow a theme of degrading women to some degree as well as some racist characters thrown in for good measure. Every bone in my body should be disgusted by his work, but I’m not. The documentary does a thorough job explaining some of the reasons Crumb chooses these subjects. His childhood was awful and the interviews with the brothers are heartbreaking to watch, not just because of the mental illness, but because they have just as much talent as Crumb does. And yet, he is the only one able to function in the world.
Every critique of Crumb that could be made already has, so I’ll just focus on the film aspect. Throughout the film I saw Crumb as more of a goofy, geeky guy rather than sexual deviant as some have called him. This film was made in the early 90’s, but Crumb fits in among the indie and hipster crowd. He has an insane amount of records and hates the idea of his work becoming popular. In one interview, Crumb talks about how he was starting to get noticed and had many offers coming in and in response to that, started drawing the truly perverse stuff.
Part of me wants to meet Crumb and just give him a hug because he has had so many bad things happen, but a larger part of me is just in awe of how much he has accomplished and how he has used his talent. His drawings were popular in the pre internet stage when people with the same fetishes and kinks had to really reach out to find others like them. Now there is something for everyone with the click of a button. Crumb thrived in a time when his personality and sexual desires drove people away. There is one interview where a girl comes up and tells him that she stumbled upon his comics when she was younger and how much it disturbed her. Crumb replied that he draws so that someone can be helped and get something out of it. It’s not for everybody, but his art is still important.
Final review: 4/5. This movie was rated R for good reason. If you can get past all the sexual stuff of which there is A LOT, then you’ll find that this is one of the finest documentaries out there. Truly fascinating.
Where/How I watched it: Netflix, sipping on Karbach’s Weisse Versa. This was my first time to pour from can to pint glass and I was rather proud that I didn’t spill!
Up Next: Written on the Wind