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The Devil & Daniel Johnston (PG-13)





Release Date: March 31st, 2006 (Landmark Sunshine Cinemas), by Sony Pictures Classics.
Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Daniel Johnston, an artist, singer and songwriter who suffered from manic depression.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: What makes this beyond a typical music documentary is that it brings its subject, Daniel Johnston, to life so that heís just as complex as any human being. Whether or not youíre familiar with his bizarre music, itís hard to deny how much energy, charisma and talent he has. Writer/director Feuerzeig wisely includes some interesting footage which Johnston shot when he was a teenager. The rest of the film flows much like a narrative as Johnstonís folk music gets recognized and, soon, many people visit him at his workplace: McDonaldís. Naturally, his parents wanted him to have a ďnormalĒ life as much as possible, so they made him go to an art school. Thatís where he fell in love with a beautiful girl who happened to have a boyfriend, yet she still became the subject of much of his art. Eventually, as his mental health declines, his life gets more out of order and he loses his fameóand almost his family as well. His parents recall him showing bursts of anger while he looks as everyone as the devil. Fortunately, Feuerzeig maintains a fast pace with humorous, warm and lively interviews with his sister, mother, father, manager, and friends to fully capture the essence of Johnstonís difficult life. By the end of this documentary, youíll feel like you already know him personally.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Johnstonís music clearly imitates his life, especially if you listen to closely to the lyrics. In many ways, he sings from the heart, even if it may come across as slightly amateur. At least he has the courage to express what heís feeling inside, especially about the world around him. He does come across as insane, yet whatís amazing is that heís still an artistic genius. Itís satisfying to know that he somewhat recovered from his mental illness and that his family care for him day-by-day.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.

NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0

IN A NUTSHELL: Warm, lively and touching! An unforgettable documentary!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)


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