Monday, January 29, 2007
You restless souls, you're gonna find it
I finally got to see the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston on DVD after hearing a lot of buzz about it. It is a terrific film tracing the life of Johnston, a singer/songwriter/artist/cult hero admired by the likes of Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth. Johnston suffers from manic depression, delusional thoughts and psychotic episodes and has been medicated and in and out of mental hospitals for most of his life.
Like Capturing the Friedmans and Tarnation, this documentary benefits immensely from the subject's past self-documentation. Johnston recorded untold hours of his lo-fi musical stylings, stream-of-consciousness thoughts and tense family conversations onto a plethora of cassette tapes. And like In the Realms of the Unreal, a documentary about the fascinating hermit artist Henry Darger, The Devil and Daniel Johnston gives a remarkable look into the mind and artwork of a would-be genius/man-child held back and yet somehow fueled by his mental illness. It's disturbing to watch how his condition tears his personal relationships apart, but touching to see how many people rally around him and celebrate his tentative body of work almost obsessively. Kudos to director Jeff Feuerzeig for this obvious labor of love.
Also worth checking out is the tribute cover album "The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered," featuring Sparklehorse and The Flaming Lips doing an amazing version of "Go" and Guster covering "The Sun Shines Down on Me."
In other news:
The past Sundance buzz building romcom road trip film The Puffy Chair should be retitled "Two Potheads and Bitch." Seriously, dude, I couldn't make it past the 15 minute point. I have to say the dialogue was real to life. Excruciatingly so. I could not bear to spend more than that short span of time with such obnxious people.
OMG, is the new The Shins album, "Wincing the Night Away," as beautifully fragile and sweet as a snowflake dipped in sugar or is it just me?