Crumb Movie Review
Crumb was the creator of such works as the drawing "Keep on Truckin'," which became an icon adorning every truck mud flap in the 1960s, the cover art for Big Brother and the Holding Company's album "Cheap Thrills," and the character Fritz the Cat, which had the dubious distinction of starring in the first X-rated feature animated film.
One of the first things we find out about the artist: he basically hates all of these works, for one reason or another. In fact, there's not a lot that Crumb likes at all about his career to date. He basically shuns the underground comic movement that he started. He refuses almost all commercial propositions. He despises modern society and, seemingly, humanity as well.
This new film by Terry Zwigoff is an eye-popping shocker, delving unflinchingly into questions of Crumb's hatred of females, questions of racism, his traumatic childhood, and his extremely twisted family. Crumb makes no apologies. Like most documentaries, there's no cohesive plotline here, only slow and inexorable revelations about the artist's life, filmed over a 6-year period. Despite the meandering story line, the film is quite engrossing, not so much due to the extensive parade of Crumb's work that is displayed, but more to the cast of characters inhabiting this strange, strange world.
Crumb's family are the most enthralling of these characters, especially his two brothers. Their stories of growing up as outcasts, their abusive father, their amphetamine-abusing mother, and the birth of their respective "careers" in art are nothing short of fantastic. The film starts to drag during some of the comic book readings and during interviews with other characters who aren't quite as enthralling, but overall the film is extremely worthwhile.
The ultimate impression that stays with me is not just that Robert Crumb is an extremely odd fellow, but more that he's a real person that I doubt anyone will ever truly understand.