The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Blank, Ed, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
There may be no stranger story in folk-rock than the one director Jeff Feuerzeig chronicles in his sincere, unsettling documentary, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston."
The late Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana, who wore a Daniel Johnston T- shirt at some concerts, dubbed him "the greatest living songwriter," which reasonably has most of us thinking: Better than Stephen Sondheim? Andrew Lloyd Webber? Paul McCartney? You'd swear Johnston's music is a campy or childlike put-on.
Daniel's off-key singing is less palatable than the late Tiny Tim's.
The movie about Daniel, who turned 45 on Jan. 22, is on sounder ground when chronicling his troubled life, parts of it described on camera by his now elderly parents, Fundamentalist Christians Bill and Mabel, who worry that he'll never be able to care for himself.
They choke up and cry. Daniel was an odd child, they knew, but they had trouble grasping his obstinance about helping with household chores, like cutting the lawn, and his insistence about holing himself up in the garage to tend to his fixations.
Daniel began filming his own life on 8mm as a boy, recording himself singing his compositions on hundreds of cassettes and sketching in a comic-book style, especially eyeballs. He devoted countless songs to Laurie Allen, a classmate who never dated him. …