Among musical cognoscenti, Daniel Johnston is regarded as one of the great singer-songwriters of the last 20 years; his admirers have included David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Matt Groening and the late Kurt Cobain. But in the mid-1980s, just when his career seemed to be taking off, he began to suffer severe delusional psychosis, from which he has never recovered.
Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary utilises interviews, home videos, archive footage and Johnston's own taped recollections to construct a picture of his life and the fragmented career that his friends, family and admirers have somehow helped him to maintain over the years. As a demonstration of how to put a life on screen, it is exemplary in its thoroughness and willingness to allow a multiplicity of views. You see Johnston's fragility and sweetness, the main characteristics of his songs, but also the dangerous madness.
Where it falls down is in its total subservience to the notion of Johnston as lost genius - on the evidence of the music here, I'm intrigued but not persuaded.Reuse content