To take a crumb of enlightenment from the world Crumb wishes to depict would be madness. This is how the madman lives. Distressing scenes, topics of dour and vile discussion, but a dedication to it that sees his creativity and ethic shine through. No wonder David Lynch is proud to present this documentary feature from Terry Zwigoff. Robert Crumb delighted and repulsed audiences in equal measure with his comics and their adaptations. Fritz the Cat and Keep on Truckin’ landed him in hot water but shaped his work and his words. Crumb gets to the bottom of that, and with Zwigoff helming this hazardous documentary on the strangely freewheeling lifestyle of the titular topic, we are in surprisingly safe hands.
“I will have to be satisfied with cats and old records,” says Crumb. What has changed for the man there? What difference is there between when he quipped this and now? Zwigoff works well with adapting Crumb to the newfound fame he receives, and Crumb is equally as inviting. He is a man that has cracked the roof of the underground, but his work has hit the notes of artistic endeavour, rather than commercial acclaim. Crumb was his own limitation, and as the various interviewee’s exhibit, he was his own undoing also. But what is there to undo? The man has not changed after fame touched him; it would seem he is still the natural eccentric that got him to where he is. His personal feelings and motivations for writing about the sickness under the surface of American values are picked apart. Is it a stroke of genius? Or, as some critics have taken it, a sickening and twisted way of exhibiting his kinks and deeply-repressed desires.
Zwigoff gives us a brilliant look into the life of a comic book creator. He is the leading man of the underground movement, away from the superheroes and shlock, Crumb fashioned out a unique style and showcases it well. His skeletal-like structure sways around, wandering the streets and cities that shape his past and present, although not much is shown about his future. He had plateaued, it would seem, by this point in his life. Deep regrets and reminiscent moments make the most of their inclusion, and they portray Crumb as an oddball surrounded by odder family and friends. Their inclusion feels controversial but is necessary for reading deeper into the life of Robert Crumb.
Crumb is a fascinatingly tortured soul who has a sincere knack for drawing and a severed bridge between fiction and reality. A fractious relationship with his father, relatives that have not mastered their oddities as well as Crumb has, whose tendencies have seen him amass some strange, sex-crazed cult following. Crumb works well in imagining the appeal this strange individual has to generation upon generation of fans but fails to thoroughly connect with the emotions and state of its subject. His work is picked apart by those contemporary critics that surround and swarm him, but it would be nicer to get a thought or two from the man himself. He is more focused on batting down the controversies of his work and lambasting the adaptations the mainstream have made to his finest features.