The Devil And Daniel Johnston (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

Review byMatthew Turner03/05/2006

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Fascinating documentary, by turns disturbing, heart-breaking and laugh-out-loud funny – this is one of the best films of the year.

What’s it all about?
Jeff Feuerzeig’s riveting documentary examines the life and work of Daniel Johnston, who is something of a cult figure in America, thanks to both his cartoonish artwork (which is reminiscent of both Robert Crumb and the drawings in Napoleon Dynamite) and his own unique brand of folk music.

The film deals with his childhood, his rollercoaster career and his difficult relationships as well as his constant battles with mental illness – Johnston has spent most of his life in and out of various mental Institutions.

The Good
As with Capturing the Friedmans, Johnston was obsessed with movie-making when he was growing up, so there’s no shortage of archive footage and Feuerzeig has assembled an impressive amount of material.

The film’s most amusing sections detail Johnston’s childhood, including his obsessions with Captain America and Casper the Friendly Ghost, as well as the fact that he used to tape-record his mother bawling him out and then make movies where he’d dress up in her clothes and dub her dialogue onto his performance.

The Great
There are several strange scenes but the film serves as a devastating examination of mental illness. During one particularly horrific bout, Johnston wrestled control of a plane away from his father, causing them both to crash and the interview with Daniel’s father about this incident is truly upsetting.

Worth seeing?
Ultimately, the film is heartbreaking, funny and inspirational, in equal measure – it’ll also make you want to buy at least one Daniel Johnston album and you’ll probably find yourself singing Casper the Friendly Ghost for the rest of the day. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 26/09/2018 07:57

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