The Confessions of Robert Crumb: A Portrait Scripted by the Underground Comics Legend Himself (1987)

Any­one who’s seen Crumb, Ter­ry Zwigoff’s 1994 doc­u­men­tary about under­ground comics leg­end, R. Crumb, may con­sid­er them­selves fair­ly con­ver­sant in both the art and the off­beat exis­tence of the vin­tage-record-rever­ing sex­u­al adven­tur­er and self-pro­claimed wimp.

But does a trav­el­er pass up the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it Paris sim­ply because he’s been there once before?

Unless you’re a vir­gin to the sub­ject, The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb, a BBC doc whose release pre­dat­ed that of Zwigof­f’s defin­i­tive por­trait by sev­en years, will con­tain no major rev­e­la­tions. It’s still a lot of fun though, per­haps more so for hav­ing been script­ed by its main attrac­tion.

Crumb and his wife, fel­low car­toon­ist, Aline Komin­sky Crumb, were uneasy with Zwigof­f’s por­tray­al, a reac­tion they doc­u­ment­ed in Head for the Hills!, a joint­ly authored, two-page com­ic in the New York­er. Their objec­tions ulti­mate­ly lay with the noto­ri­ety the film would con­fer on them. Fame for Crumb is a mon­ster-mak­ing drain on cre­ativ­i­ty. (“And I guar­an­tee we won’t earn an extra dol­lar as a result of this won­der­ful expo­sure,” Aline adds in a word bub­ble, an obser­va­tion the Crumb blog gives the lie to, near­ly twen­ty years out.)

But in terms of what he was will­ing to own up to on cam­era, Crumb the screen­writer is far from a shrink­ing vio­let. The talk­ing heads are min­i­mized and the extend­ed fam­i­ly kept to the shad­ows, but he’s frank about the erot­ic pre­oc­cu­pa­tions that fig­ure promi­nent­ly in his work and have raised more than a few fem­i­nist hack­les over the years. One might even say he plays it up in goofy staged bits, such as the one where he dons a lab coat to exam­ine the pow­er­ful rear and kid­ney bean-shaped pelvic tilt of an impas­sive mod­el clad in 80s-style Jane Fon­da Work­out wear. As social mal­adroits go, he’s not afraid to wear a lamp­shade on his head.

He also reveals him­self as a life­long learn­er, avid­ly research­ing his non-flesh-relat­ed pas­sions. His inter­ests are infec­tious. One hour with Crumb and you may find your­self spend­ing the next two or three on eso­teric top­ics rang­ing from James Gill­ray to Har­ry Roy and his Bat Club Boys.

You can find The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb list­ed in our col­lec­tion of 55o Free Online Movies.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Record Cov­er Art by Under­ground Car­toon­ist Robert Crumb

The Inscrutable Imag­i­na­tion of the Late Com­ic Artist Mœbius

Vis­it the World of Lit­tle Nemo Artist Win­sor McCay: Three Clas­sic Ani­ma­tions and a Google Doo­dle

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is a fem­i­nist and a long term Robert Crumb fan.

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