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The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Visionary artist or delusional failure? Daniel Johnston is a self-taught singer-songwriter, whose eclectic and unerringly honest music has secured a cultish fan base that includes the likes of Sonic Y...

Visionary artist or delusional failure? Daniel Johnston is a self-taught singer-songwriter, whose eclectic and unerringly honest music has secured a cultish fan base that includes the likes of Sonic Youth, David Bowie, and Simpson’s creator Matt Groening.

An excellent example of the perennially popular music documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston follows its titular namesake from the beginnings of his career in Austin, Texas, to the present day, along the way charting the mentally unstable Johnston’s high points, and his inevitable lows.  

Director Jeff Feuerzeig is clearly fond of his subject, and accordingly treats Johnston’s mental illness (and its inherent chaos) with delicacy and respect.

Rather than dwelling on the musician’s anomalous and often self-destructive behaviour, Feuerzeig rounds out his documentary by looking at how those close to Johnston have learned to accept and deal with his eccentricities; and by examining the creative influence Johnston has had on those who love and respect his music.

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