How to Draw a Bunny, a documentary from John W. Walter chronicling his life and work, aludes in title to one of his most common themes, simple bunny heads he would scratch on many of his works. What's the meaning of the bunny head, the Lucky Strike logo, or Elvis Presley's face -- all items that appear throughout his oeuvre? Walter doesn't have an answer, and he's not really trying to give us one, anyway. Instead we're treated to a rare look into his upbringing and artistic method, thanks to numerous interviews with Johnson's friends, family, and cohorts (not to mention a few interview clips of Johnson himself, shot before he drowned in 1995).
A man of few words (and those few words were invariably cryptic), Johnson is the subject of hundreds of excellent stories. Some of the most fascinating detail his obsession with trying to sell his art, as he sends typewritten letter after letter to potential buyers, haggling over prices with odd percentage discounts constantly flowing up and down through the mail. Johnson's art is also wonderful to look at -- and there are hundreds of pieces on display in the film. Even if you don't find a lot of insight into Johnson's mind within, Walter's film is a real treasure thanks to the visual record it creates of Johnson's body of work.
Walter may not be the greatest documentarian -- the film is crudely shot on video and while the snare drum score works, there's no real need to see the drum being played every five minutes -- but his passion for the material shines through. He treats Johnson's 1995 death -- widely believed to be a suicide -- with a little too much delicacy and not enough investigative gusto, but otherwise the film remains a unique and fascinating look into the life of a unique and fascinating individual.
The new DVD includes a commentary from Walter and producer Andrew Moore, plus a number of deleted interviews, and tons of photos and footage of Johnson exhibitions. Recommended.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 1st January 2002
Distributed by: Palm Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: John W. Walter
Producer: Andrew L. Moore
Screenwriter: John W. Walter