Ron Rosenbaum

The Devil and Daniel Johnston: Required Viewing

My usual wake up time is 5 a.m or earlier and I like to make a cup of Yerba Mate (I know this level of detail is riveting to you, but try Ancient Wisdom brand yerba mate extract–two teaspoons per cup–it’s uplifting and life affirming) and see what the dregs of film on cable are on offer. Because I’ve got about 60 channels of all-movies all the time and every once in a while in between Die Hard 2 and Rent you discover some amazing overlooked gem. Well not as often as “every once in a while”. Once in a long, long time.

Which is when I discovered (on Starz Cinema) the painfully beautiful, painfully sad documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston. About an Austin based musician and artist whose career arc and cult status can’t help remind you of Brian Wilson. I love Austin, I love Brian Wilson and now I love Daniel Johnston whose life and work raises the eternal questions of the relation between suffering and beauty, madness and art.

It’s a film (directed by Jeff Feuerzeig) that left me feeling deeply moved, strangely inspired, torn between being grateful for the gift of such people and the price they pay for giving it.

I don’t want to describe it any further. I just want you to see it. Rent it, Netflix must have it. I don’t want to feel alone with this early a.m. apparition.