Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Story Of An Artist Or Frankenstien Vs. The World

The Devil And Daniel JohnstonDirected by Jeff Feuerzeig(2005)

Wasn't a fan, before this. I was comming in because I heard it was good movie, in of itself, and it is, it's a great, haunting and hilarious documentary. I dont think Daniel Johnston is the greatest living song-writer, but I can see a definite line o f inlfluences that can be traced back to his music and sensibilities, that are important enough. Whether or not you like his music or art, isn't really the point, it's an amazing story, of love, fame, madness, art, religion, family, and community. Daniel Jonston was a normal child until junior high, when "he lost all of his confidence", and the onset of his ilness, manic depression(possibly schizophrenia too). Daniel becomes very introverted, but also makes art and lots of it, mostly drawings and albums made by tape recorder(instead of making copies, he would record himself playing each track again, add nauseum). Still all's mostly well, til a bad acid trip at a Butthole Surfers show, brings out the fundamentalist in Daniel(he was raised orthodox, but before this event was never devout), who becomes obsessed with the devil, and begins to lose his grip with reality.
It takes a village to raise a child, and a small army to keep Johnston just alive and functioning, not to mention getting his work distributed(that's where the sense of "community" in this film comes from. The real tragedy is his dedicated manager and friend who get's fired, during an unstable episode). Though this is the story of Daniel Johnston, we hear it mostly from the words of others(perhaps because he can't discuss or recall much of it)
In the end it's a more bittwesweet, than tragic film, Jonston's still alive, living with his parents, writing love songs(thousands) to a girl he hasn't seen since college, jamming with kids off the street, and of course, fighting off the devil.

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