Saturday, March 14, 2009

Got me a coffin, shiny and black

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)

Starring: Daniel Johnston and his family, friends, bandmates and managers

The Gist: It’s a documentary about Daniel Johnston, a singer/songwriter you might never have heard of who gained a cult following in the late 1980s and hung out with people like Sonic Youth. His voice is odd and his songs are odder still, but you’ll want to track it all down after seeing this. He’s also majorly bipolar and has been in and out of mental institutions since the time he became halfway famous.

And then what happens?: An uplifting (sort of) and desperately sad story about the effects his condition has on the people around him. You get a rundown of the highs and lows of his bizarre career: how he joined a carnival and travelled with them to Austin, Texas where he started giving out handmade recordings of his first album Hi, How Are You?; how he scared a woman so much during one of his crazy phases that she jumped out of a two storey window to get away from him and shattered her ankles; how he had no ability to re-record his tapes so would perform Hi, How Are You? over and over again to make the tapes to hand out. Interesting guy to learn about then, and great music, but you’re kind of thankful that he’s far away from you.

See it for: The part where his father describes the night Daniel took the keys from the plane he was flying them in, forced himself into the driver’s seat and proceeded to fly them straight up and straight down over and over again. He managed to grab the keys in time to crash them into some trees and survive but he just disintegrates on camera when he talks about it.

Level of Crazy: 10. Well, he’s crazy, so it’s crazy.

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