Devil and Daniel Johnston

The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a documentary featuring one of Austin’s most well-known underground (do those go together?) eccentric artists, Daniel Johnston, hits limited release today. Of course, if it’s limited, it’s not playing here yet. I’m sure Dobie or Alamo will get it at some point later this spring or summer.

I mentioned the film last year when it appeared as part of SXSW. Some are comparing the film to Crumb, one of my all-time favorite documentaries. Kenneth Turan reviewed it this morning on NPR and was underwhelmed. He faulted the film’s length and its tendency to overdo its reverence for Johnston. I do like Johnston’s stuff, but I have to agree with Turan that it’s hard to justify the level of praise that’s heaped on him. MTV, predictably, takes the Kurt Cobain angle on the story.

One could argue that Johnston’s sort of the embodiment of Austin, a little weird and unstable, lots of creativity, well-regarded, but not completely mainstream. Of course, all of that could describe Roky Erickson as well. Are they both a product of a screwed up Texas mental health system? Is it just that Austin is the only place in this state where people like Roky and Daniel feel comfortable? I don’t hear about artists like this from Phoenix.

1 Comment so far

  1. Jette (unregistered) on April 4th, 2006 @ 9:57 am

    There’s a documentary about Roky Erickson too, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” which I haven’t seen ( And let’s not forget the documentaries about Townes Van Zandt and Dale Watson. Maybe musicians should be required to see all these films before they move to Austin.

    I’m not a Johnston fan at all but I liked the documentary a lot — wonderful layering of his music, audio recordings, childhood home movies, etc. I believe Alamo has ads posted for the film, which they’ll start showing in May.

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