An unflinching look into tortured musician

Review A

June 23, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW | MICHAEL SRAGOW,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The Devil and Daniel Johnston celebrates the scrambled purity of its anti-hero, Daniel Johnston, a manic-depressive, geeky-gonzo singer-songwriter with a lyric gift and a way of leaving human wreckage in his wake. But what makes this a stunning documentary comparable to Terry Zwigoff's Crumb (1994) is director Jeff Feuerzeig's rendering of the All-American damage deep down in Johnston's soul.

A Johnston devotee, Feuerzeig elicits admiration for the artist's body of work and a complicated sympathy for the bewitched, bothered and bewildered heart behind it all. Johnston, 45, now lives in Waller, Texas, in a house directly behind his parents' home. These good people understandably treasure the hours between 7 a.m. and noon, when Johnston is still asleep and they don't have to worry about him.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Sony Pictures Classics) A documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig. Rated PG-13. Time 110 minutes.

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