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THE CONFESSIONS OF ROBERT CRUMB

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky Crumb
Writer:  Robert Crumb
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Home Vision Entertainment
Features:  None
Length:  55 Minutes
Release Date:  February 19, 2002

Film ***1/2

Robert Crumb achieved fame starting in the late 60s as an underground comic book artist.  His talent was undeniable and his vision unique…often funny and disturbing at the same time.  He created the memorable “Fritz the Cat” strip, along with other favorites like Mr. Natural and the Keep on Truckin' series of images.  But perhaps his most popular and most personal character has been himself.

The Confessions of Robert Crumb is a personal and intimate look at Crumb through the eyes of Crumb…he wrote and starred in it, along with his wife, Aline Kominsky Crumb.  And Confessions is a good title…much like the way he lays bare his soul in some of his comics, he does so here as well, with disarming candor and no apologies.

It's a fascinating companion piece to the acclaimed 1994 documentary Crumb.  This film is shorter, and doesn't go so much into his past and family life (though both are touched on briefly)…rather, Crumb's offering is to simply show himself the way he is, and let his audience interpret as they see fit WHY he is the way he is.

The film is lovingly peppered with plenty of his artwork from over the years, and one of the uncanny traits of the picture is how what we see in drawn form almost always equates with what we are currently seeing of Crumb, or currently hearing about him.  He speaks frankly; he draws even more so…put his words and pictures together, and the juxtapositions are almost startlingly revealing.

I was instantly intrigued and fascinated by this person called Crumb…so much so, that I watched the documentary straight through a couple of times in the same setting just because I wanted to see more.  It's the kind of film that more than makes up for a shorter running time with plenty of attention to substantial details. 

In other words, you don't have to be a fan of Robert Crumb to enjoy his Confessions.  You don't have to know anything about the man at all going in to appreciate his work and the lurid details of his life…all you need is an open mind and an appreciation for a truly unique and unforgettable character.

Video **

Being a 15 year old BBC documentary, there is nothing spectacular about the original full frame video presentation.  It looks a bit of its age here and there, but is hardly unwatchable…one gets the impression very little attention was paid to cinematographic elements when making the movie, so colors, lights, shadows and other visual details often take a back seat to Crumb himself.  Which is fine…the real visual treat is his drawings, not his house.

Audio **1/2

The soundtrack is a simple one, with very little panning effects and dynamic range, but it earns an extra ½ star for the bits of classic music, including a number from the late great Perry Como and a couple of clips of Crumb himself playing his guitar.

Features (zero stars)

None…but there's a cool pull out reproduction of Robert Crumb's cover art for this video.

Summary:

The Confessions of Robert Crumb is worth a look…it's a short but well-filled documentary about one of the great figures of the counter-culture, his bizarre tastes, dreams and life, and how all influenced his now legendary comic-book style.