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Author Topic: DVD review  (Read 4267 times)
Stress Records
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« on: September 03, 2006, 01:45:23 PM »

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/review.php?ID=23616


The Movie

 It's a fine line between art and madness – few artists would know that better than cult singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston, whose odyssey through the valleys of darkness and peaks of achievement form the core of Jeff Feuerzeig's arresting Sundance and SXSW fave The Devil and Daniel Johnston. It's as moving and involving a portrait of creativity as you're likely to see this year – those unmoved at the film's conclusion should worry about their humanity.

 Austin Chronicle editor Louis Black puts it best midway through Feuerzeig's completely gripping documentary: "All geniuses are crazy, but this was someone we knew and cared about." Johnston, a musician whose quavering tenor and bizarre, simplistic compositions have earned him fans like Beck, Kurt Cobain and Wayne Coyne, is a mystifying figure; alternately brilliant and maddeningly unreachable, Johnston began his music career as a precocious youth whose staggeringly gorgeous catalog was a decade ahead of the curve. What shone brightly with promise was soon dimmed by the specter of manic depression and struggles with personal demons – to this day, Johnston remains a cult figure, a musician on the margins, more respected than admired.

 Utilizing a veritable mountain of audio and videotapes, along with newly filmed interviews, Feuerzeig reconstructs Johnston's life to date, charting the astonishing rise and precipitous fall from grace. For obvious reasons, Johnston is unable to sit for an extended interview, but his presence is felt in every frame of Feuerzeig's film; what emerges is a raw, uncomfortably honest portrait of an artist consumed by his craft, held hostage by his muse.

 Like a moth consumed by the flame, Johnston's art became his life, with the two so deeply intertwined that one cannot exist without the other – very few artists can give so much and even fewer films can place viewers inside that world without destroying the integrity of the art. The Devil and Daniel Johnston is such a film, and a stirring testament to the triumph of art over all else.

The DVD

The Video:

The Devil and Daniel Johnston is presented with a very clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that suffers from plenty of grain, dirt and even mold – but that's to be expected when dealing with archival footage, which makes up a fair portion of Feuerzeig's film. The newly filmed interviews look crisp and clear, with nary a blemish visible.

The Audio:

 Surprisingly (for a music doc), the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is subtle, rather than overpowering, electing to provide a warm, immersive soundfield without blowing your head off – of course, Johnston's idiosyncratic catalog doesn't really lend itself to ear-bleeding volume. The interviews are heard cleanly, with forced English subtitles filling in where the audio is less-than-audible. Optional French subtitles are also on board.

The Extras:

 Thankfully, Sony has packed this disc full of bonus features that further flesh out Feuerzeig's vision, leading off with a warm, technical and occasionally adulatory commentary track with Feuerzeig and producer Henry S. Rosenthal. It explores the making of the film, as well as the two men's thoughts about Johnston's work. Thirteen of Daniel's "audio diaries" are included here, playable separately or all together for an aggregate of roughly 22 minutes; six deleted scenes are on board as is the very poignant reunion of Johnston and his muse, Laurie Allen, filmed in 2005 at the SXSW Film Festival and running seven minutes, 54 seconds. The "legendary WFMU broadcast," an archival recording of WFMU's Music Faucet second anniversary special featuring Johnston, runs 15 minutes, nine seconds while footage from the Sundance world premiere screening runs seven minutes, 21 seconds. Three of Johnston's short films – "It Must Be Monday," "The Dangers of Sled Riding!!" and "Gallery of the Weird" are included here (playable separately or together) as well with trailers for Sketches of Frank Gehry, Why We Fight, The Italian, Riding Along For Thousands of Miles, Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas), The White Countess, Riding Giants, Masked and Anonymous, The Fog of War, Grateful Dawg, Marie Antoinette, The Holiday and American Hardcore rounding out the disc.

Final Thoughts:

 It's an emotionally shattering journey but one worth taking – The Devil and Daniel Johnston explores madness, love and creativity, all of which tentatively co-exist within the troubled, turbulent soul of this singular artist. Highly recommended.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2006, 01:49:38 PM by Stress Records » Logged

dbeefy
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2006, 02:14:19 PM »

ah , the uk disc is missing some of those extras, no audio diaries or Sundance short. Sorry if others have pointed this out already! Watched the film again last night and it has got me smack bang back as a big fan -although it never has gone away I haven't listened to any Daniel for a while, and am now going back to those amazing early tapes.

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dbeefy
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2006, 03:14:28 PM »

and 1990 Smiley
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