Classic Film Review: The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Full Title: The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Year: 2005
Comments:
Before I go any further, I must warn you if you are planning on watching this documentary, then you will be possessed by the Devil… Did you hear me?! I said the DEVIL. SAYTUNNN!!! Now, if you think I should be locked up in the looney bin before I harm others and myself, then you are probably right, but this is not about me (The Devil and Chris DeCarlo will hit theaters in years to come) this is about the one and only Daniel Johnston. In this gentle, affectionate, film we see how Dan is an enthusiastic, earnest, artist, in spite or because of his various mental and/or social problems. Initially, he is simply a slacker, eshewing work and school for his art, much to the chagrin of his family; his parents in particular are objects of his animostity. Alas, as he grows older his mental capacity deteriates (hence his obsession with the Devil) and he is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder causing him to be in and out of mental institutions and a serious threat to himself and those around him. I’ll stop here before I give away anything else, unless of course you know Dan’s bio… What I really like about this documentary is the fact that it stays personal via old home movies, tape recorded interviews, animation (coming straight outta Dan’s drawings, literally!), and of course interviews with his family, friends, and collaborators. The doc never strays off into a Michael Moore performance art sorta thang or a hidden agenda drenched picture. The agenda is clear: Daniel Johnston, love him or hate him, was and still is an incredible, gifted man with more passion in his art than most other artists one cares to name. Overall, this is a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from sad, humorous, fascinating, disturbing, entertaining, and ultimately touching- fans and non-fans unlike should see one of the finest documentaries of the last ten years.

P.S. excuse the “rollercoaster of emotions” cliche, but since Dan worked at an amusement park, I think it fits.

Grade: A-

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