The Devil And Daniel Johnston
A truly incredible film. Daniel Johnston is possibly most widely known for having a piece of artwork adorn a t shirt, extensively worn by Kurt Cobain at the height of Nirvana's success ('Hi. How Are You?'). This prolific artist and musician from West Virginia, achieved notoriety and a certain degree of fame in the 80's and early 90s, through his home-recorded cassettes and subsequent descent into madness. As Daniel was also an avid film-maker, as well as frequently recording his thoughts onto tape - this is as thorough a documentary as you could hope for. From troubled/gifted teen - to the overweight and fragile Daniel of today, you are taken every step of the way. Whilst the journey is exhilarating and exhausting, you can take your pick from the hundreds of sub-stories that make up its whole.
- A worried Thurston and Lee from Sonic Youth, driving around trying to find Daniel, clearly losing his mind on his first visit to New York.
- A typically twisted Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) conducts his interview from the dentist's chair, recollecting the time Daniel first took LSD
- Or when Daniel tried to force the demons from an old lady (an ongoing obsession, hence the film's title) she was so frightened, she jumped from a 2nd floor window.
One of his friends hits the nail on the head when describing his guilt at having Daniel committed to a mental hospital. Explaining that he had always been on the side of history's tortured artists, such as Van Gogh, here he had shot had helping such an artist, but he simply couldn't handle it. And that is what this film is above everything else: A document of the battle between Genius and Insanity. The last line from Daniel's remarkable parents, looking after a recovering, but still clearly unwell son, is an absolute killer. Awesome.