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mental invalid

go see american splendor.....

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I have been planning on it, possibly this weekend. If and when I do, I'll bump this thread with my response. It looks really good, needless to say.

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Guest beardo

never heard of it, and the site isnt loading for me. ill snoop around google

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Guest beardo

thats probably it

 

best to not know anything about the flick anyway. ill just go see it. i like going into it completely ignorant

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Guest im not witty

ive been hearing alot about this movie, but im not too familiar with the comic its based on.

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word...haven't seen it, it looks cool

 

LOTS OF INFO...

 

 

 

 

 

Many Splendor Thing

 

Working-Class Hero/Comics Guru Harvey Pekar Gets the Rashomon Treatment

 

By_Eric Allen Hatch

American Splendor--which follows real-life comic-book author Harvey Pekar from his beginnings as a bitter, broke Cleveland file clerk to his current status as a bitter, broke, working-class Cleveland retiree--is neither a documentary nor a biopic. Instead, it dabbles in both, playing a host of cinematic games designed to blur viewers' differentiation between reality and representation. While the resultant hybrid isn't always convincing as Something New, it almost always entertains. Further, co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini succeed resoundingly on at least one major point: illustrating that the fullest portrait of any single human requires many human eyes.

 

Since the 1970s, Pekar has documented his life in an irregularly published comic book titled American Splendor. Not a gifted visual artist, the deeply introspective yet ruggedly street-smart Pekar limits himself to scripting the books, which are then illustrated by a rotation of artists that has included, most famously, underground comic forefather Robert Crumb. American Splendor (the comic) has rightfully earned accolades for its plain-spoken approach to autobiography; readers prize Pekar's unflinching honesty about ordinary topics including marital strife, anger management, and depression, as well as his more academic essays on literature, jazz, and the American class system.

 

The plot of American Splendor (the movie) marches us through a greatest-hits revue of events and monologues first appearing in Pekar's comics. We see Pekar (Paul Giamatti) befriending a pre-counterculture Crumb (James Urbaniak); we meet his co-workers in the Veterans Administration hospital where he toiled for decades; we see him awkwardly woo future wife Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis); we see the couple struggle through economic privations and Pekar's arduous battle with cancer.

 

We also see and hear a fair amount of the man himself. Pekar's own voice narrates much of the film. Furthermore, the filmmakers weave into their narrative interviews with the real Pekar. Conducted in a searingly crisp, clean, and sparsely outfitted studio, a stylized environment that couldn't be further removed aesthetically from the streets of Cleveland, one gets the sense these environs restrict Pekar, who seems shy and bemused during these interviews. What we're given as contrast to Giamatti playing Pekar, then, seems to be not Pekar, but something else: Pekar playing Pekar--and nervously at that.

 

Then comes a revelatory moment that fully concedes that point and transforms it into fruitful conceptual fodder: Giamatti enters the studio, sits down, and watches Pekar talk. As the real Pekar speaks, now less inhibited, a grin spreads across Giamatti's face, a smirking recognition of the caliber of Harvey's performance, of its unbeatable Pekarness. Similarly, we also meet Harvey's real-life hospital co-worker Toby Radloff, who parlayed his nerd persona into some memorable 1980s MTV promo spots. We would believe actor Judah Friedlander's dorky rendition of Toby to be ludicrously over-the-top, save for its juxtaposition with the real deal (who, granted, is probably consciously magnifying himself for the camera), which renders the performance positively understated.

 

The film trots out many such devices to illustrate the Rashomon-like difficulty in favoring any one portrait of reality. Joyce and Harvey's first interactions are through letters and phone calls, and when they arrange their first in-person meeting, Joyce balks. She doesn't know what to expect, because every artist draws Harvey differently, with results ranging from brooding Adonis to total slob. Somewhat less useful are animated sequences bringing Pekar and company to cartoon life in varying styles: In a film based on a comic book, animated frames are perhaps de rigueur, but these come across as purely perfunctory. Much more interesting is a scene in which we see Brabner (Davis) send off Pekar (Giamatti) to a rambunctious appearance on the old David Letterman show on NBC; we then see Brabner (Davis) backstage viewing actual footage of Pekar (Pekar) being interviewed.

 

And so, American Splendor (the movie) leaves us with the same question with which American Splendor (the comic) began several decades ago: Who is Harvey Pekar? When thinking of him, do we now picture Pekar (and, if so, at what point in his life) or Giamatti? Do we see him as Crumb draws him, or as envisioned by his numerous other collaborators? Is he a husband, a comic-book writer, a progressive philosopher, a retired file clerk, or a character in a film?

 

It would be facile to say he is all of these things. These are some of the things he is, or has been, or works at being. Harvey Pekar, American Splendor (the movie and the comic) would seem to say, is the sum total of all perceptions of Harvey Pekar--including his own. It's a point effectively mounted in both mediums. On the page, and now on-screen, Pekar's stories inspire us to see the rich multiplicity in a stranger whom we've met only on paper and film--a potent cautionary against stereotyping as one-dimensional the living, breathing persons we encounter in mundane flesh and blood.

 

© 2003 Baltimore City Paper. All Rights Reserved.

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