Saturday, April 30, 1994

Crumb


Finally got around to seeing Terry Zwigoff's "Crumb" at the Nowheresville arthouse. Amazing movie, though I wish he'd made a different movie. Mo' deep thoughts later, but for now, some quick takes on what I liked. No time for factchecking, quotes are paraphrases, and neatness don't count...

I liked just seeing Crumb draw -- the act of drawing itself. Amazing. All that nervous energy, all those scratchy lines. Am a cartoonist myself and simply don't work that hard. Exhausting to look at him. Must have an obsessive-compulsive streak.

Funny moment. Crumb's daughter watching the TV set, some old black and white cartoon. She says something like, "Why can't we get a color TV and watch some new cartoons?" Crumb says they haven't made good American cartoon since 1940. Daughter says that's typical. "Everything has to be black and white with you--everything has to be old-fashioned."

Also funny seeing R. Crumb in the ahht gallery with the gallery owner, who is spouting typical artspeak. Crumb standing next to him and I'm pretty sure he is trying not to laugh.

And then there's Mr. Serious Art Critic Robert Hughes and it's funny just hearing him compare Crumb to Goya, noting the similarity of Crumb's vulture demonesses to Goya's nightmare visions. Great tradition of this kind of thing in the graphic arts: social commentary etched in acid, Crumb draws out of that poison well. I happen to agree with him here (and like R. Hughes) but it's still funny.

Once upon a time, Crumb was a despised, bad, naughty person. Now we put his scrawls on gallery walls and serious critics take him seriously. No, no, no, Meester Crumb, you're not just another prole cartoonist. You're in an ART GALLERY now. You're a respectable arteest!

OK. And then there's his family: what R. Crumb calls a "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" scene. Brother Max is frightening, Charles is more so. (I didn't know he'd committed suicide when I saw the movie). I thought only Southern people had families that screwed up...

Great seeing Crumb (in effect) tell some Hollywood producer to kiss his ass.

Loved seeing Crumb on streets of LA. Just watching him watch the people, seeing Amerika-world with his eyes.

Great comment from R.C. "Everybody walks around in these t-shirts with somebody's logo on it -- they're walking advertisements. It used to be people fermented their own culture outside this thing created to make money, but we're turning into one big unified field of market research. I'm disgusted with people don't have any intellectual curiosity what's behind all this jive bullshit."

Amen, bro.

Crumb in his house with all those old records. "You hear the best part of the soul of the common people in these things..." going on to say we're losing that.

And then there's his attitude towards women...

Crumb flipping through 60s-era sketchbooks, talking to one of his old girlfriends, (Dana?) who's talking about various affairs Crumb had. RC shrugs and sez something like "What do you care? It didn't really matter anyway. I never really loved you." Her jaw drops. To make her feel better he sez, "I was very fond of you." -- PUNCH. And she gets him right in the gut.

Crumb was asking for it, got what he deserved. The question most women are asking: would an icepick be better? More on that later...

As to the movie I wish Zwigoff had made --

The film has a freak show quality to it. Zwigoff points his camera at Crumb's weird family and says, "See the freaks! Born to live! Alive, alive, alive!" Yeah, OK. That's all morbidly fascinating, but I wish he'd offered more background about underground cartooning in the late 1960s and early '70s -- and placed R. Crumb in the context of the circle of San Francisco's underground cartoonists, and the American cartooning movement in general. As it is, you'd think the whole thing popped out of R. Crumb's head. Like he's the only guy doing this kinda thing. Gilbert Shelton isn't even mentioned! I mean, come on ...

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