Magazine article Insight on the News

Cartoonists on Camera

Magazine article Insight on the News

Cartoonists on Camera

Article excerpt

Crumb, a remarkably cagey and edifying inquiry into the life and art of the inimitable, incorrigibly misanthropic cartoonist R. Crumb, is the best documentary feature to break into theatrical release since Hoop Dreams. But like Hoop Dreams, it won't win an Oscar. "It's hard to imagine [the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] warming to this documentary that's kind of loaded with explicit carnality and other scandalous, controversial stuff," says the sardonic, spindly 46-year-old filmmaker Terry Zwigoff, who has spent the better part of the past 10 years shooting and editing Crumb from his home in San Francisco. "And they didn't. They watched about 20 minutes and gave it up as a bad bargain."

The subjects of Zwigoff's first two movies were even more offbeat than his current venture: Louie Bluie celebrated the eccentric blues musician Howard Armstrong; A Family Named Moe grew out of his fondness for Hawaiian pop. They are cult items in the home video inventory.

Born in a small town in Wisconsin and raised in Chicago, Zwigoff first met R. (for Robert) Crumb in the late 1960s. They discovered they were neighbors in San Francisco and shared a passion for jazz records from the late twenties. Crumb persuaded Zwigoff to join a string band that fooled around with Dixieland numbers, the Cheap Suit Serenaders. A more professional and decisive collaboration extended to comic books, the medium that provided Crumb with his initial break-through. Zwigoff published some of those early editions of Zap and Weird Comix, now pricey collectors' items in their own right. …

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