Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
We close the Festival with an astoundingly original celebration of counter-cultural creativity. American Splendor came from left field to steal this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was a hit again at Cannes this May.
“What a sad, tender, wise and beautiful film co-director/co-screenwriters Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have made from Harvey Pekar’s life and his American Splendor comics. Like Terry Zwigoff’s equally superb Ghost World, this is a film about the kind of people most movies never bother about… It’s a profound tribute to lives lived on the fringes of society – to the introspective loners who are the most observant chroniclers of our times. American Splendor represents a bold deconstruction of the fatigued biopic form. Not content to present the Cleveland-based Pekar’s life as anything resembling a straightforward narrative, Berman and Pulcini – who have previously made only documentaries – wildly jiggle around the raw materials of their film until they’re left with a freewheeling phantasmagoria of dramatic scenes, documentary interviews (with the real Pekar) and crazily inspired animated bits drawn by the likes of R. Crumb and Joe Zabel. The result is a vibrant, untamed film that stubbornly refuses to fit into any prefigured category… It’s a fundamentally surrealist piece, one that eschews objectifying Pekar’s life in favor of a full immersion into his slightly exaggerated worldview, so that we may better understand how Pekar was able to take life’s lemons and transform them into lemon-art. Thus freed, American Splendor becomes a celebration – an advocacy, even – of finding the ‘art’ in one’s own life.” — Scott Foundas, Variety