Review of the movie “Crumb”

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If you are the same approximate age as me (pre-neolithic) you might recognize the name Robert Crumb. If you have ever seen the Album “Cheap Thrills” or the Keep on Trukin logo you are at least familiar with a small part of his work. What Robert Crumb was, at least during the 60’s,  the creator and chief drive behind what were known as underground comics. Zap, Ftitz the Cat, and the Dirty Laundry series were all part of his repertoire. Back in that time I saw Crumb as an irreverent genius who satirized society with amazing insight and cut to the core of its decadence with his complex illustrations.

Fast forward to 2010. Recently I saw that Crumb the DVD was being re-released. They made the movie back in ’95? Wow, somehow I missed that, but through the magic of Netflix I was soon settled in before the television for what I was sure would be an entertaining evening. On this count the film did not disappoint yet it was for many of the worst reasons. Let me start by relating that this movie is a documentary. Usually these are somewhat dry but this film, at 2 hours, seems to go by in the blink of an eye. It of course features Robert Crumb, but it contrasts what he has become with the fate of his brothers Charles and Maxon. Charles is a recluse who, when on his meds (as he himself says) seems to be bordering on normal. Brother Maxon, on the other hand, is a starving artist who lives in a squalid apartment and panhandles on the street in order to survive.  He brothers are clearly disturbed individuals, but then comes the realization that Robert, who although seems to be the most normal, is actually nearly as deranged. I offer as evidence for this the fact that he even allowed he and his family to be filmed.  The movie delves into Robert’s illustrations on an entirely different level than I’d ever viewed Crumb. What appears as biting satire is actually a manifestation of Crumb’s own neurosis and sexual fetishes. The man is, for lack of a better term, batshit. His drawing of women are almost without exception Amazonian with big butts and legs. It almost knocked me over when I realized that both of his wives and his mother are built  exactly the same.  He has a thing for feet, piggy back rides on a woman’s back, and during the course of the movie seems to promote incest when he says that “the family that lays together stays together.”

I have little doubt that I am not doing this film justice. I highly recommend it, especially to those who remember his comics in their heyday. I always thought that I had a solid understanding of the youth movement from that era, but if I was this far off in understanding Crumb’s art then I must question everything I think about that period of Americana.

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