Director of underground rock documentaries--so far, of Half Japanese and Daniel Johnston.
Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1993) -- The parts where Jad Fair, David Fair, the other eventual members of the band, label owner Penn Jillette, and the Fair parents tell the story of Half Japanese is great and interesting. The problem is that most of the movie is (or seems) dominated by too-cool-for-school nerds who like underground rock just a little too much, including the CEO of Matador Records. Eventually the movie just becomes redundant and annoying, with Comic Book Guy-style guys saying how The Beatles suck, MTV sucks, and the world sucks for not realizing how great Half Japanese is. I like Half Japanese too, but I realize that they're not for everyone, since some people prefer that their bands to know how to play instruments and sing well. The movie does tries hard, but it doesn't quite do Half Japanese justice or quite get the point across successfully that Half Japanese invented what we now know as indie rock, lo-fi, and bedroom music, well over ten years before it came to the front with bands like Beat Happening, Sebadoh, and Pavement. Instead, everyone comes across as self-important, and apparently lots of people watch this movie and think it's a mockumentary. Still, in spite of its faults, it's nice to see -- in the early 90s -- a movie that's not about the more popular alternative bands like Nirvana. For a similarly-flawed but interesting movie, see Songs for Cassavetes.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2004) -- Among the best documentaries about musicians and artists that I've seen, this one captures Daniel Johnston's music, drawings, problems, family, underground fame, and life in general wonderfully. Luckily for Feuerzeig, Daniel Johnston made plenty of home videos, cassette recordings (diary-style, letters, fights with his mom, etc.), and other things to scatter through the movie. He also does a good job with his recreations and modern interviews with family and friends. The movie is essential viewing for Daniel Johnston fans and it will probably make fans of those who aren't.
Copyright (c) Oct 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies