another documentary about another under-appreciated, troubled genius. the film begins with a contemporary performance of johnston’s in which he is introduced as “the greatest living songwriter.” this is an ambitious way to open a film for several reasons 1) it makes it more difficult to make the case that he’s under-appreciated 2) it sets the music bar extremely high and 3) it puts pressure on the filmmaker to substantiate this claim through subjective and objective means.
by the end of the film i found myself feeling sorry for daniel and his family, but that was about it. if the introduction had framed the film as one about a troubled individual, rather than about “the greatest living songwriter” then perhaps i would have come out having a more moving experience. the fact is that bob dylan or tom waits or paul mccartney or thom yorke or any number of other living songwriters are all better than daniel johnston. johnston belongs more in the wesley willis category than in the lennon/mccartney category. it seems that certain segments of society are extremely eager to find the next troubled genius who will act as their prophet. it’s actually somewhat pathetic and exploitive, in my opinion. again, as a film about a tortured individual and the impact his struggle had on those close to him, the film is much more interesting. as a final note – only two or three of the tracks featured in the film actually appealed to me.