Columbia/1994/119m/FS 1.33 & 1.66

     Shocking in its frankness, an eerie sensibility pervades Crumb. A documentary about avant-garde cartoonist and social satirist Robert Crumb, this film by Terry Zwigoff basks in its own eccentricity. Zwigoff has been friends with Crumb for years and the freedom of friendship translates into a devastating honest portrait, intimate, grotesque, and ferocious in its search for truth. Crumb and his outrageously erotic cartoons were born on the irreverence of the sixties counter-culture and filmmaker Zwigoff successfully engages the time machine in turning back the clock .
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Crumb walks the old neighborhood as Arnold looks on.©Columbia

     Zwigoff visits Crumb’s past through interviews, with Crumb as a participant, photographs of the Crumb family, and a consistent sprinkling of Crumb’s irreverent art depicted with a libidinous freedom that is a signature for the bizarre work of the artist. Crumb seems totally at ease in front of Zwigoff’s camera. There is a childlike quality to all the Crumb brothers, but it is only Robert who has managed to carve out a life of meaning. These people are from another dimension, a product of repressed homes and mind altering drugs. The film spends its time learning about Crumb at his family home as Robert and the camera visit with his brother Charles, a recluse who reluctantly holds court in the quarters of his disheveled bedroom and his mother slouched on the couch of the family living room. Former sexual intimates of Crumb reflect on his prowess as a cocksman with glee and Robert himself joins in the raunchy recollections. What surfaces is Crumb the survivor, the only one of three brothers to chart a successful course through the turbulently icy waters of their origins.
     Reflecting on the conclusion of Crumb that includes the information that Charles Crumb committed suicide one year after the filming, I could not help thinking that the raw exposure to the lens was a view of himself that Charles Crumb could not escape and that his life’s end was somehow linked to this record of the life of the Crumb brothers.
     The DVD is an accurate representation of the original source material for Crumb. Colors are natural and there is a home video quality about much of the footage, bringing an additional intimacy to the film. Crumb's graininess is rough going for this DVD transfer. Don't expect a smooth, noise-free image. Much of the grain takes on a jittery quality. The sound is clear enough. This is a very special film relating an outrageous character moving through some controversial times. It's an interesting collection title.