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The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Questionable methods, questionable subject
By MATTIAS FREY  |  April 5, 2006
2.5 2.5 Stars
THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON: A mad genius? A genius at all?Daniel Johnston would seem to confirm Faust’s lesson that genius arises through demonic bargains. A brush with MTV fame has transformed the promising folk-rocker on the burgeoning mid-’80s Austin scene into a delusional, obese manchild who rants on about Satan at least as much as he sings. Piecing together thousands of Johnston’s drawings, cassette recordings, and homemade 8mm films with new anecdotal interviews, director Jeff Feuerzeig chronicles the manic depressive’s rise to become the “it” artist of the “in” crowd. (After Kurt Cobain wore a Johnston-designed T-shirt, Elektra and Atlantic lobbied to sign up the artist in a Texas mental hospital.) Feuerzeig’s documentary is polished and puzzling. Why interview Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes while he’s having a cavity filled? Are the filmmakers just out to make a buck off a sick man? More inexplicable than Feuerzeig’s method is his subject’s music: is Johnston even a genius at all?
Related: Playlist: September 21, 2007, Walk ’n’ roll, Feel-bad cinema, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Kurt Cobain, Butthole Surfers, Gibby Haynes,  More more >
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