Now that Crumb is 15 years old, it seems pretty safe to say that it has evolved from a potential classic to actually being one. But what kind? A documentary portrait of a comic-book artist, musician, and nerdy outsider? A personal film essay? A cultural study? An account of family dysfunction and sexual obsession? Or maybe just a meditation on what it means to be an American male artist? In fact, Crumb is all these things, with a generous amount of thoughtful art criticism thrown in as well.
Today, there are few moldy figs in the original jazz purist sense of the term, though an analogous pejorative, “rockist,” has taken hold in the past decade or so. A handful are still schlepping around, crates of dusty 78s in tow. Film director Terry Zwigoff is one, as is his friend and the subject of his best film (and one of the greatest documentaries about an artist), Robert “R.” Crumb, the cranky godhead of underground comics.