In many ways, this documentary is a beautiful work, a painstakingly crafted portrait of a talented self-saboteur -- a man consistently done in by a vicious mental illness. But it's not as compelling as one would hope. Despite the inclusion of ample archival footage and audio tapes created by Daniel Johnston, a singer-songwriter and artist who has obsessively documented his own life, Devil never quite gives us a sense of what it's like to be Johnston, of how it feels to live inside his manic-depressive mind. Which makes it hard to care. So many notables have believed in Johnston -- Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, Tom Waits -- that his talent must be real. But in the film, Johnston and his music remain aloof. Instead, the more indelible impression is of his friends and his family, and particularly his parents. Bill and Mabel Johnston are layered, sympathetic figures; far more than Daniel, they grow and change throughout the film, and become its emotional center.
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Producer: Henry S. Rosenthal
Cast: Daniel Johnston, Louis Black, Bill Johnston, Mabel Johnston and Jeff Tartakov
The Devil and Daniel Johnston