Strange and interesting study of a warped genius5/10
Robert Crumb must have had a bellyful of people calling him a genius, but that's exactly what he is. Having grown up a bullied, miserable child - and an anachronism almost from the start, with his interests in pop culture ephemera and old-time music - in a dysfunctional family (his father was an overbearing tyrant, his mother an amphetamine addict, his older brother so obsessed with comics that he forces his siblings to draw them), Crumb escaped this drudgery by fleeing to Cleveland, where he first became a staff artist for a greetings card company, then one of their most innovative and prolific designers, before relocating to San Fransisco. His initial impetus was to "get some of that free love stuff", but his pen ran away with his thoughts and he wound up virtually launching the underground comics movement. Between 1968 and 1993, Crumb produced some of the funniest, most outrageous, licentious and flat-out brilliant comic book work of all time, and this film is an invaluable insight into the man behind the madness and the mayhem. Turns out Crumb, despite his bizarre appearance (he's stick thin, wears Coke-bottle spectacles and dresses like a character actor from a 1930s comedy) and sexual deviance (he likes nothing more than hefty haunches and big, strong legs in a woman), is something of an everyman - he's married, dotes on his understanding wife and gifted daughter, and feels just as alienated from the 'evils' of modern living as the rest of us sensitive intellectuals! At first glance, of course, Crumb is as weird as they come, but the sight of the aforementioned older brother Charles (a reclusive crank who rarely leaves his squalid bedroom, let alone the house) and younger brother Maxon (a haunted, bedraggled amateur mystic, given to sitting on beds of nails and begging on the street with a wooden bowl) throws the relative sanity of Robert into stark relief. One gets the impression that if Robert had not escaped, he'd have wound up suffering just as much as Charles and Maxon, possibly even more. This isn't easy viewing and the subjects are undeniably resistable, but it does offer a unique and enlightening glimpse into the reality of the old cliche about genius and madness walking hand-in-hand. Recommended.