Once again Criterion brings an important film to
market. This time they've brought Terry
Zwigoff's important documentary Crumb
to Blu-ray with an excellent transfer and
a wonderful set of bonus features. The
movie profiles seminal underground comic creator Robert Crumb but more
chronology of what the artist has accomplished, the film examines the
tortured childhood and shows how the act of drawing has kept the
Robert Crumb was propelled to fame in the mid-60's with his
groundbreaking comic Zap as well as a few high profile pieces such as
for Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and
the Holding Company (for which he received $600 and never had his
returned) and the at one time ubiquitous "Keep on Truckin'". An animated movie was made of his character Fritz the Cat, which only added to his
fame even though Crumb hated the film so much that he killed the
character in a
subsequent comic. With fame come money
and respect though Crumb never really wanted any of that.
Told through extensive interviews with Crumb, his two
brothers and his mother, a bleak picture of Crumb's early life unfolds. Growing up in an incredibly dysfunctional
family, Robert learned to escape at an early age into drawing. His father, described by brother Charles
Crumb Jr. as a tyrannical bastard, was controlling and domineering. At one point Charles Sr. decided that Robert
should make money with his art, so he ordered the young teen to wander
neighborhoods drawing houses and then ringing the doorbell and trying
the sketch. Glowering in all the family
photos, it's clear that the family patriarch had issues himself. Robert's mother escaped into amphetamines,
his older brother Charles became a recluse on anti-depressants (he
suicide before the movie was released) and his other brother Maxon, is
who panhandles for money to live on.
(His two sisters refused to be interviewed for the movie.)
Crumb has always marched to the beat of a different drummer,
and that's still true today. He
routinely turns down incredible amounts of money for the film rights of
characters and feels only distain for most of modern American society. The man comes across as an intelligent,
character that still has a hard time relating to most people.
There's a lot to like about this film. It's
not a fawning movie that only seeks to
elevate its subject. Director Terry
Zwigoff interviews art critics, magazine editors, and other underground
artists who give frank, and often contradictory, opinions on Crumb's
art. The film doesn't shy away from the
and (some would claim) racist aspect of his work. It's
on full view, as well as the strong
sexual content that permeates a lot of his art.
The thing that comes through strongest is that Crumb is no mere
book illustrator. He's a talented
The most engrossing aspect of the movie is just watching
Robert draw. He'll sit in a street
his sketchbook and draw the people he sees sitting around him. His drawings are detailed and really capture
something about each person he sketches.
He's fast too, creating a rudimentary image with only a few
lines. And that's the key to this
film. It merges the artist's personality
with his work and creates an amazing look at a unique individual.
The full frame 1080p AVC encoded disc looks just
marvelous. Criterion has done their
usual excellent job in bringing this impressive documentary to HD. The image is very strong with solid lines and
realistic colors especially the flesh tones.
The level of detail was fine, though not outstanding, and there
digital defects to complain about. The
film still exhibits some grain, but it's a natural amount and Criterion
the right decision not to remove it. All
in all a very nice looking movie.
The disc includes the original mono audio track, and it
sounds just fine. Digitally remastered,
the folks at Criterion manually removed all of the pops and cracks and
result is a very fine sounding film.
There isn't any distortion or background noise and the dialog is
When Criterion sets out to add extras to a disc, they go all
out and this Blu-ray is no exception.
There isn't one but two commentary tracks included with this
release. The first one (recorded this
year) has director Terry Zwigoff alone discussing his creation, his
relationship with Crumb and some of the trails that he had to overcome
the project finished. In the second
commentary, recorded in 2006, Zwigoff is joined by critic Roger Ebert
track deals more with the film itself. I've
always enjoyed Ebert's commentary tracks (his one to Dark City
is great) and this one was entertaining too.
There are also several deleted scenes, running a little less
than an hour all together, that are well worth watching.
I especially enjoyed seeing some of the
magazines that Robert collects. They are
pretty interesting. The disc-based
extras are wrapped up with a still gallery.
Included with the disc are two great inserts. The
first is a 28-page booklet that has an
essay by Jonathon Rosenbaum as well as pictures of the Crumb family and
pages of the artist's work. Separate from
that is the art test that the late Charles Crumb filled out for the Famous Artists School. It's decidedly bizarre and quite a nice
addition to the movie itself.
This is a wonderful documentary that really manages to say something
about its subject. Robert Crumb is an
interesting individual and an immensely talented artist.
Even if you've never heard of the man, this
movie will entrance you. Highly
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.